Tuesday, July 22, 2014

6 Tips to Bring Yourself Back to the Positive

While I have centered this blog around the writing life, in reality it's purpose is to highlight the writing as well as the joy of following our passion, whatever that passion may be. I've had a lot of experiences over the past few years that have forced me to really look at myself and determine why I do what I do, and where I want to be by the time I leave this world. Or rather, what kind of life I want to look back on and see that I've lived.

The life I'm living so far is good. It's not perfect by any means, and there are a lot of dreams as of yet unfulfilled, but overall it's good. Despite that, I often find myself struggling to stay positive. Life gets difficult. My house feels like it's a monster bigger than I can handle. Children are crying at my feet, tears streaming down their faces, begging me to hold them. Books are calling to me with untold stories aching to get down on paper. Everybody seems to need everything and I find myself wondering... when is it my turn? Anyway, the point of that rant is this... life gets hard, stuff gets in the way until I feel like I'm just getting through, and I start to slip into the negativity. This is a bad habit of mine that I'm really working on fixing.

Negativity. The opposite of positive, the opposite of joy, pretty much the opposite of everything I want. He's a sneaky little guy, coming in when I'm defenseless, taking root before I've realized he's there. Gotta love him. But you see, I have tricks that I'm learning to combat negativity. Do they always work? Nope. But sometimes is better than never. So here are a few of those.

  • Keep a gratitude journal. I've talked about this before but I probably shouldn't because I don't do this faithfully. Still, recognizing the blessings in your life is a great way to shift the context of how you view life.
  • Write. Write. Write. I mean this for everybody, not just writers. Get up in the morning and write about what makes you feel good. I did this this morning and it was lovely. Brought my energy right up. I felt happy, I felt passion fluttering inside, and I felt a desire to take on the day. It was wonderful. I wasn't writing poetry or novels, I was simply writing what I wanted. I was writing about what I liked, and I only focused on what I like about the morning. It doesn't really matter what the topic is as long as it makes you feel good. 
  • Find something that inspires you to be your best self. This could be a book, a movie, or a conversation with a friend. Again, it doesn't matter what it is as long as whatever it is is helping you see the incredible you that's buried under the negative. Seriously, somewhere hiding in there is an incredible person just waiting for you to open the door. So open it. Let your passion fuel your life. Find something that enables you to see you as you were created to be seen.
  • Master mind with somebody. This is a concept I learned through Napoleon Hill's books, and it's a concept worth including in your life. If I'm low or struggling with negativity, I can often find a person that I trust and bounce ideas off of them. It becomes a mastermind where the people involved in the conversation drive the possibilities forward until you gain access to what you are really capable of. It's an effective way to find hope and the positive when you're drowning in the negative. 
  • Take a break. I'm not joking. Get out of the house, take a drive to somewhere that feeds your soul, or go for a walk down the street. If you can't leave the house then find somewhere restful in the home where you can just be with yourself for a while. Don't focus on anything but your body and the incredible experience of relaxing. Take a bath. Have a glass of wine. Whatever you need to do to unwind. Make you a priority.
  • Set aside time at night for yourself. As often as I can I make the nights mine. I get the kids in bed and I turn on a movie or I read a book I've been wanting to read. This is my time. You need that time to unwind and recoup before you have to wake up and start all over again so make it a priority as often as you can.
I know there are lots of tips and tricks you can do to feed the positive. I would love to hear what some of you do to stay positive when you're feeling a little low. Feel free to share!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's Your Story?

Everybody has a story. I'm a big believer in this. Most people think their story is boring, pointless, and just not worth telling. I would argue that they don't understand the value of their own story. I have a belief that I've been nurturing for a while, and that belief is that history as it is written in the history books was written by the conquerors, not the conquered. Or, to put it in less gruesome detail, it was written by the scholars and the academics, while the stories of those who actually lived through history have long since been forgotten.

Here's an example:

We have Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. The history books praise Thomas Edison as the father of modern invention, and he may very well have been. But what about Tesla? He also lived during that time period and his inventions were incredible. His goal for mankind was far-reaching and, had he achieve it, would have been phenomenal.

New history is cropping up that tells a different story. Who was Tesla and who was Edison? And were they portrayed accurately, or was one portrayed as the failure while the other was painted as a hero? Who wrote the stories that we now believe portray these two men? I would love to read an autobiography of Nikola Tesla. I think that would be a phenomenal piece of work because it may shed new light on an old story.

What would be even better are stories written by the people that lived and worked with these two men. Those are the people that would have told their interpretation of the men, how they acted, how they responded to failure, what their upsets were, and what drove their passion forward. These people would have thought their stories were pointless, but in reality they would have been incredible works that we who live today could have read to get a true look into the lives of these men.

Everybody has a story. Everybody. The elderly have incredible stories. They've lived through wars, genocides, failures and successes in the countries they love, loss, heartache, growth, and triumph. Their lives may have seemed uneventful, but when you string that life into a story you see that they have something to share and incredible wisdom to impart.

Everybody has a story. The young have stories. They view life differently than the rest of us who have been smacked down a couple of times. They see beauty where we see mud, they feel vibrant and energetic while we spend half our lives trudging through exhaustion. Their world is very cut and dry. X = Y. It makes sense to them. Their stories can give us a different view on the world we live in.

Everybody has a story. The teenager dealing with the highs and lows of puberty and of peer pressure. The young soul trying to figure out where they stand in this world and where they're going to make an impact. They are risk-takers, often trying far more than we adults would ever want them to try, but learning from it nonetheless. These stories are worth hearing because we can get an inside look into their world and how life occurs for them.

Everybody has a story. Regardless of your situation in life, whether you're rich or poor, young or old, from Brooklyn or California, Ireland or the Middle East. You have a story and it's beautiful because every story is a story of life. These stories are how we can truly see the world through the eyes of another. That is how compassion is born because, as Ender said in the novel Ender's game,

Our stories when told help other people truly understand who we are and when we understand people, we can't help but love them. So I ask you, what's your story? Have you considered that it's worth telling?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Why of What I Do

I created this blog for two reasons. First because writing is my passion. Whenever I start to feel lost or like I just need something for me, I start to crave writing. It's a sanctuary for me, a world where I get to live and experience life through the lives of other people, people that I've created. I love that about writing. I love that I get to be so many different people and wear so many different hats, and then at the end of the day I'm still me.
I read a quote that basically said that the person who reads lives a thousand lives in one lifetime, while the person who doesn't read lives only one. I loved that quote. But I would take it one further. The person who writes truly experiences a thousand lives in one lifetime because you become those characters, if only for a brief moment.. You understand them, you hurt with them, and you love with them. Oh, by the way, I might have a girly crush on my main protagonists. I bet I'm not the only writer that does.

I also created this blog because I've been experiencing a shift in my life, and I've seen other people experience that shift is well. It's almost like you see the light fire up in their eyes, and they realize that they were born to be incredible. They were born to live a life of love and passion, one that could possibly impact the world. Maya Angelou is a prime example of one of these people. She discovered this years and years before the rest of us, and look what she did. The woman inspired millions, and she loved them. People are starting to feel that fire inside,the fire that says that their greatness is in there, waiting to shine.

I wanted to learn how to let my light shine, and I wanted to do it in a way that helped others let their light shine as well. Some days I think I'm getting there. My light must be shining! And other days I'm pretty sure I stuck the light under basket and then buried the basket in mud. I feel like every person that made it to earth made it because there is something in them that is so wonderful it wants to be shown in mortality. When they let it out, their lives and the lives of the people around them are transformed. Gandhi is a prime example of a person who tapped into their greatness and lived in that power. He transformed an entire country and his legacy transformed the world. My hope is that we can all learn to live in such a way that our lives touch the lives of others, leaving them better off than we found them.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Great Dilemma

With today's technology, authors are no longer stuck to the traditional publishing model of the major publishing houses. In the past if you wanted to get your book published you would get your manuscript complete then start looking for an agent, who would help you find a publisher. This model is still going strong, but many writers are turning to self-publishing to get their voices heard. No matter how great the publisher is, they can't publish every book that comes their way so there are plenty of excellent pieces of work that get tossed in the slush pile. Remember The Help? The author of that title had more than 60 rejections before her work was picked up. Great books can get lost in that slush pile.

So we authors are now faced with an interesting dilemma. Do we self-publish, or is the traditional model the better route? I have been asking myself this question for years, literally. In that time I have researched both models, talked to authors who have self published and talked to those who have used the publishing houses. More and more I find myself leaning to the self-publishing model. Here is why:

We'll start with royalties. Traditional publishing houses give their authors about 10% royalties. Out of that 10% you pay your agent. That doesn't count e-books which are often calculated differently. I have a friend who published a book that got nationwide attention and he told me it was very likely that he would never see royalties from the e-book sales. I was shocked. E-book sales make up a huge chunk of the market and they cost very little to produce. Royalties should at least be the same on those, if not higher. Granted, the royalties are going to be different depending on the publishing company, but you get the idea.

Marketing. This one is the biggest toss up for me. I don't know how to market a book. I don't know how to market anything, really. But that doesn't mean I can't learn. Marketing classes are all over the place, and if I wanted to I could go get a degree in marketing. I've seriously considered doing that too. But with a book you go through a publisher because you expect them to do the marketing. I think in the past this may have been the case, but I've talked to quite a few authors that are not getting the marketing they thought they would get through a publisher. One young author told me that she had her book published, was making about a dollar per book sold, and had hired a publicist to drive the book forward. I don't know what kind of marketing support she had, but it wasn't enough. However, all of these publishers have connections to the big name box stores that I don't have, so that's a mark in their favor. Regardless of the marketing platform and assistance given, they do have connections. So I'm torn on the marketing. I know, with the technology we have today and the huge reach of social media, marketing is possible without a publishing house, but it will be a learning curve.

Control of the title. This one is big for me. I never liked the idea of pouring my soul into a book and then passing it on to a publisher to control the outcome. I get that you need an editor. That one makes perfect sense to me. But once the title is published I want to be able to control the marketing schedule, book signings, book tours, etc. I may be somewhat of a control freak so keep that in mind. I like the idea of having full control over something that I've worked so hard on. On the other hand, the publishing houses are there because they know what they're doing, so following a set format is a good idea. This one is one of those toss ups for me.

Finances. So let's face it. Financially most of us don't have thousands of dollars to slap onto a book and get it published. There are many costs that come with publishing. You have to buy ISBN numbers, which should be purchased through the ISBN website. Turns out, if you purchase your ISBN for thirty bucks from one of the self publishers online, they then have the rights to the ISBN and you don't. You want to maintain the rights if you're self publishing so pay the money and do it right the first time.

After the ISBN you have cover design. This one has been a toss up for me. I'm pretty good at Photoshop and I have a sister who is great. In theory my cover shouldn't cost anything, but if I were to choose a cover designer that's a few hundred dollars. Editing is anywhere from $200 to $1500 depending on the editor you choose. I think I might have choked on some of those prices, really.

And then, of course, there's the production of the book itself. E-books can be done for a couple of hundred, and the physical book can be done for less than $1,000 for 100 copies. Then there's the business side of it. If you want to publish your book the right way, create a publishing company and publish your book through your company. This removes your liability and changes the tax portion of it. I really don't understand all of that, but I know it's best to publish the book as a company rather than as an individual. Starting a company will cost hundreds. Financially, people flock to publishers because it just doesn't feel feasible. So here's the breakdown.


  • 10% royalties
  • You give them control of the title (you can keep the copyright. Just make sure you read the contract)
  • Connections to bookstores and writers resources
  • Possible marketing help, but no guarantee
  • They fund the production
Self publishing:
  • You provide all the funding 
    • E-book production approx $250
    • Book cover approx $200
    • ISBN varies, but about $300 for 10 and you'll want multiple numbers
    • Editor anywhere from $250 - $1500
    • Print books $600 for 100 copies (figuring on the low side)
    • Marketing: ?
    • Expenses that I am unaware of or that pop up unexpectedly - X
  • You maintain complete control
  • You put together the marketing platform. You have to learn to market. Do you know what a press release is? You'll need to figure it out.
  • Higher royalties depending on where it was produced. 
  • E-book royalties that typically range from 30-50%, sometimes higher
See? It's a dilemma. There are pros and cons to both. I think if I could get my book picked up by one of the big five publishing companies (Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, etc) I'd jump at the chance, but probably not for the smaller publishers. Self publishing may be slower going, but it's possible to build a following through a good social media marketing program. At that point your books would start selling. I've decided that there is no right or wrong decision to the publishing dilemma. You simply have to choose whatever option works best for you.