I just completed my first book signing. It was a huge success, according to the River Oaks Bookstore – one of their best ever! Just when you think writing is tough, marketing your writing is much tougher. Mustering the courage to take my novel into a workshop and get feedback was hard enough, but there was something about asking folks to take their precious time to attend my book signing that was anxiety producing. I am so humbled by all the people who came out and purchased my book, and who will now hopefully read it. I’m also acutely aware of the time commitment it takes to read – especially these days – and I’m very grateful. And I have special gratitude to my sweet Rebecca. She has encouraged me to take each painstaking step to market Fulton. I couldn’t have done this without her!
I look forward to more success for my novel and continue to turn my attention to my new writing project(s). I’ve been bouncing from idea to idea, not quite sure what I should write and letting life get in the way. I guess this is a problem of prosperity because I have no dearth of ideas, but I’m seeing which one will come to the forefront. That brings me to what I’m musing about today. In talking about writing The Fulton Parks Scholarship Fund, I remember the fledgling idea for this novel came from the main character floating into my consciousness. Once there, he wouldn’t stop talking! So even though I have many ideas for a new novel or screenplays, I realize that I’m waiting for that new protagonist to start talking to me. In the interim, I think I should still write whatever and however, but while I’m ‘waiting,’ I’m ready, willing and listening.
I’m ecstatic about my first book signing event: Saturday August 12th 3-5 at the River Oaks Bookstore, 3270 Westheimer in Houston, Texas! I’ll be signing my book and meeting fans. Look forward to seeing everyone there. If you can’t make it the paperback can be purchased on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/fulton-parks or from their subsidary CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/6583099
It’s taken a while, but the paperback version of my novel The Fulton Parks Scholarship Fund is finally out: https://www.createspace.com/6583099. It will be on Amazon in a few days. It was an amazing thrill to actually hold it in my hand and see those words on paper. We are excited about marketing my book and giving readers a new option to purchase it.
I’m very grateful to all the people who have taken the time to read my book (I don’t take for granted the time commitment!) and also to those who have reviewed it. It’s gratifying to know that people have enjoyed my novel and at the end of the day I wanted to write a book that would be entertaining – a book that I would want to read. But it is also about struggling to find your place in the world, families, friendships and addiction, not to mention a fun-filled trip of Houston in the late 1970’s.
So now we’re taking my show on the road…and stay tuned for more information on a book signing event.
Don’t let anyone tell you that failing is bad. Failing is how we learn. If you are failing, that means you are doing and doing is taking action, which will eventually lead to success. Hopefully, you won’t kill anyone along the way. Remember Maverick’s conversation with Viper in Top Gun, after Goose has been killed:
Maverick: So you think I should quit?
Viper: I didn’t say that. The simple fact is you feel responsible for Goose and you have a confidence problem. Now I’m not gonna sit and blow sunshine up your ass, Lieutenant. A good pilot is always compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned. Up there, we gotta push it. That’s our job.
So how the heck does this apply to writing? Well, ‘we gotta push it’ too. That’s our job – no, really – we do have to take some risks and the main one is: risk writing badly. Believe me there is a pony beneath all that – you know what. But if you don’t write, and you wait around for just the right bit of inspiration or to be struck by Writing-Talent-Lightening, then you will fail because nothing gets put on paper. Writing badly is what we are supposed to do. We have to write ourselves into success, but it won’t happen unless you actually start filling up a blank page.
We do have to ‘evaluate what’s happened, so we can apply what we’ve learned.’ When I started writing my novel, I didn’t know any better. I just started writing. I didn’t even really know who my characters were, much less what was going to happen. I had to go through a lot of pages and drafts, and frequent dead ends to see what was going to work, but eventually you start listening to your characters. They can tell you their needs and wants and goals, and those are the things that generally move a plot along. If you play ‘what, if’ and provide some obstacles along the way, then you’ve got some drama. Not cheap drama, but real organic drama that’s born out of your character’s psyche and your reader won’t feel manipulated. You have to have a reader’s trust because that’s what compels them to go along for the journey, to see what happens and make the investment of time that it takes to read your book. So go for it, write badly, screw it up, but write, and find your pony.
Ok, Day 5 of the 10 Day Blog Challenge! What is my success plan? Well, it’s a work in progress, but I can tell how I managed to finally to do the last draft of my novel and get it published. Even though it was something I definitely wanted to do, love to do – it would still hit this wall and be paralyzed, so I came up with JUST DO IT FOR 10 MINUTES. I’d set a stopwatch and work on whatever page I happened to be on and what do you know I’d get into a zone and then end up working for a couple of hours or more. Natalie Sisson talks about this in terms of the Pomodoro Method which is to work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, then another 25 minutes and so on. Whatever works, but there is something about the timer thing. For me, 10 minutes was good – I figure you can do anything for 10 minutes. I think I need to try that with exercise now. But this kind of targeted time period also allows you to cut off any extraneous distractions, like looking at your phone or deciding you need to do laundry. It all still be there in 10 minutes, but you can accomplish a lot in the meantime.
I think I’m good at making things up. I have vivid imagination and always have. I remember when I was a little kid, I loved playing make believe – only it was very real to me – like when I’d pretended I was a TV chef – The Galloping Gourmet was at the forefront then – and I’d fill a wine glass with grape juice and ‘cook’ up a storm for the [imaginary] camera. Or after watching the Olympics, I’d go outside and make up my own sports, compete and then interview myself after winning the event in spectacular fashion [again all while that imaginary camera was rolling].
This ability has served me well as writer – a mantle I didn’t own for a really long time – since I didn’t major in English in college or go to graduate school to be a writer. I’m a late bloomer and when I started to write my first screenplay in the spring of 1992, I was 34 years old, unemployed, living unhappily and depressed in Cleveland, Ohio (no offense to that fine city). I had quit my job as a claims adjuster (it was actually my 4th claims adjusting job – and sadly not the last), but one day I couldn’t take it anymore and just walked out of the office never to return – probably not my finest – or most responsible – hour. I had always wanted to write and I loved movies often thinking I could write something like that (or more likely – I could do it better). Finally it was put up or shut up, so I bought a screenwriting book and with blind beginner’s luck wrote my first screenplay in thirty days. Not surprising that it was a thriller based on a protagonist who was an unhappy claims adjuster and found herself caught up in a murderous conspiracy and intrigue. It was probably terrible, but I entered a screenwriting competition and made a decent showing, just enough to spur my efforts on.
Fast forward to the late 1990’s when the nascent idea for my first novel began to form, based on a protagonist who is unhappily enrolled in a prestigious university and flounders due to his personal life unraveling, not in small part to a burgeoning alcohol problem. I wonder how I got that idea. Ok, so like probably a lot of writers, I riffed off my own life, but the actual book turned into more of an adventure story with a whole cast of crazy characters and even crazier plot twists than the usual angst ridden coming of age novel, but then, I think I’m good at making things up.
My ideal day is the topic for Day 3 of the 10 Day Blog Challenge. Sometimes I have to draw myself into the right place and today I’m thinking about my desire to live a more minimalist lifestyle. I remember a time when all my belongings fit into the back of my 1977 Toyota Corolla Liftback. Maybe that’s why I have a fascination with micro-housing, and in particular, building houses out of shipping containers. Here is my container house:
I would want to wake up with my partner, drink coffee, write and take walks. I’m lucky to be in a relationship where we enjoy each other’s company. And, of course, we would be work on our recovery and personal growth, spend time with friends and family and travel. It’s less about the where because I think I could be happy most places, but it’s about whom you are with and what you are doing; and most importantly doing it with the a perspective of service and an attitude of gratitude. We are lucky to live in this country, despite its problems, and when you think about it – every day above ground is an ideal day.
Second day of the 10 day blog challenge and we are exploring our whys. I would have to agree that freedom is definitely up there. The definition of freedom has changed over the years, but my favorite definition is Kris Kristofferson’s ‘freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.’ A little bit of desperate never hurt anyone and can be a great motivator. I like the idea of being able to create a lifestyle doing something you love, being creative and having the ability to do what you want – when you want to. Right now that kind of freedom is lacking in my life, but I remain hopeful that I can create it.
To do so, I think its paramount to remain fearless – nothing left to lose – be willing to let it all go in the hunt to keep doing what you love to do. For me right now that is writing and the other love that is always close behind is designing houses. I don’t have much of an outlet for the latter at this time, but it haunts the shadows of my mind in a persistent way. I get excited about my writing and about houses, and they are the two things I can do and lose all track of time. And they are also the things I would do for fun and free, but I hope I don’t have to forever. But as long as I have my partner by my side, I don’t have anything left to lose.
I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on what I wasn’t doing, instead of actually doing. I’ll give you an example. I can work up a full head of steam with worry and anxiety about needing to make money. The rallying cry for this is “I’ve got to do something! Right now!!!” Panic isn’t pretty. This is when the Four Horsemen of Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair take over and end up riding me into the ground – regretting the past, fretting about the future and basically curled up in a ball on the bed – not a great start to living your ideal life. But when I can just get into the moment and do the next right thing, then I take tangible action and not let myself get stopped by feelings. Feelings lie. Feelings are not my friends sometimes, but action can be. Action is what gets me from point A to point B, not feelings. Sure it’s important to bellybutton gaze now and again – believe me I’ve done my fair share – but sometimes the only cure for what ails you is taking action. It’s how I finished my novel and got it published.
The other thing that I do that isn’t helpful is to second guess myself. This was particular bad when I was younger – stuck on the horns of ‘what will people think’ and ‘what if I fail – or God forbid – look foolish.’ Growing up helps you get over this self-consciousness, but aging kicks it into gear. So what if you fail or embarrass yourself, and who is going to be the judge of that anyway – other people who are afraid to act? So yeah, go ahead and go out on that limb and dare to make a big ‘mistake’ because mistakes are only really about missing the mark and they are the building blocks of experience. Tony Robbins talks about a baby learning to walk – the first time he attempts a step and falls – you aren’t going to shut him down and say ‘that’s it for you – I guess you’re not going to walk after all.’ See what I mean – mistakes = experience, and experiences eventually equals success. Maybe not where you thought you were headed, but where you were supposed to end up all along.
“This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 1:”
When I first undertook to write a novel I just wanted to write a book that I would want to read. After all that is what made me an avid reader ever since I was big enough to open a book One of the fondest memories of my father (who btw turns 87 today!) is when he would take us to the local public library. I was six and he would load us up in the car every Monday night and head over to the neighborhood branch. It was a veritable treasure trove of places to go and people to meet in the pages of the books I loved and that had the power to transport, transfix and help me transcend whatever I couldn’t handle in real life.
As a writer, you can’t help but want to make your reader laugh, cry, think, remember or just feel, but the best stories are those that do that on deep background – a great sleight of ‘word’, so that your reader doesn’t actually know that it is happening. It’s an organic process that you can’t overtly set out to do or your audience will smell the manipulation a mile away. You have to write yourself into a place where you are literally taking dictation from your characters, but to get to that point you have to write a lot of bad pages.
Now that my first novel is ‘out there,’ I can move on once again to that second novel that I couldn’t quite start because the first one wouldn’t leave me alone. And I can also, for a time, read again because other people’s words aren’t competing in my head with the characters from my first book. In truth, I don’t know if I have another novel in me, but there’s only one way to find out and that’s to write and never forget the magic of words on paper.