CHEERS TO THE HOLDAYS

images_271This is the most fun-time of the year. Family members snooping in closets, under beds, and anywhere they can remember, from last year, where presents were hid. And yes, the trips to stores to drop gifts, unwrapped, off at the places for families who need gifts. This is the important part of the holiday season…sharing. Giving rather than receiving.
I remember years ago, my parents driving me and a backseat full of gifts to parts of town I did not know existed. When we stopped in front of homes, some of them did not have lights, but candles. I thought this was neat, until my mom told me the truth about their candles. Even today, I have problems with lighting candles, except at church.
Still we all know there are discrepancies in the lives of people we know and people we do not know. It becomes our cheer to give to those whose lives are not as fortunate
as ours.

One family we encountered had two little boys….all I could think of was balls, toys, warm clothes, until the oldest kept looking around and shaking his head. When I asked if he was okay, he nodded and turned to go still looking around. “Did you loose something?” I asked. The answer came back in a whisper…”No, guess Santa never heard me.”

“What did you want from Santa?”

“A new coat for my mom, and a puppy for my brother.”

My heart dropped down to my knees. He wanted for his mom and his brother but nothing for him. “Maybe, Santa had his sleigh full and couldn’t get these inside. If he doesn’t come back tonight, we will search for him tomorrow.”

“Really, you’d help me?”

My dad turned his head around and surprised me….”Of course, but you need to keep this a secret.”

The little boy’s eyes widened as he shook his head up and down.

“If we can find Santa tonight, we’ll be back; but if we have to wait until Christmas Day, we may be a little late.”

“Okay.”

No other response. This little boy believed both of us.

“Dad, what are we going to do?”

“Everything except the puppy. They can’t feed their own family, and certainly not a dog. But, you, my daughter, will take him to the Animal Shelter and let him play with all the dogs he and his brother can handle.  AND…This will be once a month for the next year.”

I noticed the change in my Dad’s voice and I knew what he meant. A promise is your word to another person and it cannot be broken.

The next day, we drove by their house. The candles were all lit, singing came through the cracks in the doors and windows. It was a happy sound, and next to me was a huge hairy dog. We opened up car doors and started toward the house. The singing stopped, and the family members met us on the rickety front porch.

“We found Santa,” my dad hollered, but he only had a few things left. “A new coat for mom, a new flannel shirt for dad, clothes for both of you boys, and a new part-time pet. Meet, “Big Boy.” We will bring him by every so often and my daughter will take you with her to help at the animal shelter. Santa smiled as he got his sleigh off toward the North Pole.

“Merry Christmas to all who believe.”

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Where is your concentration?

images_074 Yes, here I am searching for my concentration. As you can see, there is a lot of scraps of paper, twisted paper, eyes staring into space, and nothing getting done. I am in that lost phase of work. I can’t focus and my mind strays to other projects, which are not complete. What is going on? OVERLOAD. One word says it all, but why? We will look into this situation and it is shared by many. A study from Microsoft, about a year ago, discovered we have an average attention span of eight seconds. EIGHT? So, I began counting 1, 2,…..up to 8. Sure is not a long time. Our brain takes in most everything and do you realize how fast it works to keep us going on different projects? No wonder we get lost, confused, when there is so much to do and so little time. We need to step back…STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.
With the stop part, look around where you are and count the ways of instant gratification.  I can name just a few from my desk:  television,  channel changer (or whatever you want to call it), microwave, cell phone, coffee maker, any device that helps us get something faster and faster. Our brain picks these up and gets habituated to the stimuli. This is where we need to STOP from time to time and maintain your concentration. Give the brain a break. Take some deep breaths and slow your thoughts and heart rate down. Inhale in slow motion, and exhale in slow motion. LISTEN to yourself as you list the tasks you need to do. There are scads of them, but do they need to be done immediately? If there are a lot, make a list and do it the ‘old’ fashioned way…prioritize. When you stop to make the list, you are in a sense giving the brain a breather. As you prioritize, the list may get smaller and you can incorporate some tasks.
We have wrapped ourselves around multitasking and then find we need to go back and make corrections. A cell phone is a nightmare when it is turned on 24/7. You may not answer, but always look to see who is calling or who has called and this distracts you from what you are doing. Then we have to look back to what we were doing and sometimes the thoughts are not there or we cannot put them back in the same pace. Bless our brain, it can’t handle more than two big tasks simultaneously. A part of out brain is designed to work on one task while another part of our brain focuses on another task. There is no room for a third task.
Yet we can help ourselves by deep breathing and keeping our mind in the present instead of letting it wonder. This can be accomplished by turning off the cell phone or putting it on a ‘do not disturb’ notification, and then hiding it in a drawer. You will not fall off the earth. Now, think again at the difference between your days and your nights. (It might be backwards if you have a night job.) We all know to dwindle down the TV, the computer, and begin to relax before we fall into bed. At night your breaths become less labored, more relaxed, and your brain gets energized. You wake up to a new day with energy and the ability to make this YOUR CONCENTRATION DAY. How many times have we been told….stop and smell the roses. With our level of activities daily, now is the time to give those roses some sniffs.
This also applies to exercise. We need this to keep our bodies and mind working and in good order. Sometimes, we work frantically hoping to gain the results of a slimmer body, more curves, bigger biceps. Then after a couple of weeks, the gym doesn’t look so inviting. We want instant gratification.  But, do you stop and ask yourselves, how long it took you to get out-of-shape? No. Slow down and get your only body in shape physically, mentally, and spiritually. Time is a great healer of all ails, but it takes time, perseverance, and you will gain results as well as your brain.

Happy Concentration. Healthy You. A Happier You.

 

I NEED INSPIRATION

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Have you ever plopped your tush in the chair, found the keys on the keyboard, and nothing entered your mind? You know what you want to do…write…but your mental and emotional energies are not connecting. Why? Are there problems in your life that need attention before your writing? I know, as this has happened to me. My head says ‘WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.’ but the emotional side is in turmoil. Knowing you should write and not allowing yourself the attention you need to be healthy, will not improve your writing. I’ve tried this and my writing comes back like a stranger playing on the keyboard. The writing is unacceptable, terrible, and the spelling is at a first grader’s level. Still, I keep plugging along hitting the keys until the DELETE KEY is my only salvation. Today, is my day to take care of me and I shut down the computer.
Inspiration is not forced, it is waiting for you to find this part of your writing. Sitting at the keyboard is not the way to go. Get yourself out. Yes, out of the chair, out of the house, and explore an area of town that is unknown to you. Stop in at a coffee shop and watch the special coffee show pets. Imagine this…dogs on leashes sitting beside their owners and not growling at another dog. Or Fluffy sitting in a patron’s lap. No hisses. No claws out. Just a relaxed cat snuggling up to its owner. Each pet is so thrilled to be out on a “date” with their owner and no keyboard around.
I had kept myself glued to the chair, wanting to write, and nothing happening. Getting out and about, I find as a writer, I need to play, live, be with others, and absorb living from everyone.
Get out of the box you made for yourself and visualize your writing  in a new corner of your neighborhood. Take yourself to an afternoon movie and sit wherever you want. Splurge on a box of popcorn and notice the difference in the taste. Take yourself to breakfast. I love the WAFFLE HOUSE. Food is fantastic and you can eat breakfast at any time. Coffee is always fresh and hot. The order language is foreign, but works. I always get what I ordered. Customers and staff are friendly and informative, if you ask questions.
You need to balance your life with whatever you like to do. JUST DO IT! Do not write without checking for the balance and you will see your writing take off. New ideas hit the waves and the creative juices fill your passions for writing. Have fun.
Now, a thank you to all of my readers. Your comments are always welcome, and I would like to hear from you about stories, articles, or what you want to see on my blog. What do you want? I consider this our blog and welcome your suggestions.
On a personal note, I received an invite to a Cancer Survivors’ Celebration, from Piedmont Cancer, for a picnic, parade on the baseball field on Sunday June 12, before the game, and see the Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs. Will I be there? You bet your dollar I will. It’s been a hard row, but with faith, friends, family, and all the wonderful doctors and staff at Piedmont Cancer, we’ve made the journey.

 

 

REVIEWS?

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Reviews are part of the writing process, whether good, bad or indifferent. What writers do with them are sometimes a shrug of the shoulders. Let’s take a this to a different level. I have noticed more and more questions coming in from social media. What to do? How to handle emotions? Ignore? This is why I will take a stab at my own observations.

We write because of a fire that burns inside us. Stories we want to share. After months and months of research, writing, editing, searching for an agent or publisher or deciding to self-publish, we still keep plugging on making this the best book we can. Edits, edits, and edits are done over and over until the publisher or the author thinks this is the best.

The next steps are the cover and the ‘blurb’. You  look at the cover and decide if this entices you enough to look at the ‘blurb’. Then you notice your book is in the general “Romance” section, and you know it is romance and suspense. Sometimes, our books get into sections of a bookstore, or even online where we do not expect to see them.

A writer writes what she or he sees, feels, imagines, or has experienced. This may take a year or years to get the experiences onto the computer screen. Then  a publisher or agent comes in with their view points. Next, the bookstore puts the book into a different section.

As writers, we know our work is good, but we cannot please every reader. Each reader has an opportunity to express their thoughts on a particular book. However, I have found a lot of social medial avenues are not reviews on the books. Sometimes the reader has not even read the book, but wants to get their information online, so others will see their names on social media.

As writers, we have the option of reading and responding or not responding to these reviews. Why, we can see they have not read the book, ignore the content, or the genre of the book.

Just remember, a reader took time to bash your book and another reader took time to share a good report of your book.  Move on without a conversation on either the good or the bad. Reviews and Reviewers are part of the process. Your  part of the process is to KEEP writing.

HAPPY WRITING.  HAPPY DAY.  HAPPY YOU.

 

 

 

 

Fortune Cookies and Writing

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You’re kidding. What do these have in common with writing? Words . . . not just any words, but words with ideas.
Late one afternoon, a few of my book club members decided to go out for an oriental dinner before the meeting. Some of the members are writers and others readers of books. After the last course, Fortune Cookies became the centerpiece of the table. A ‘savage’ grab got our fortune right in front of us. One by one, we read our fortunes out loud. Voices got softer as each cookie not got read.
“Stop,” one in the group hollered. “These are all about kidnapping, murder, and death. Who did this sinister trick, and no, it is not funny.” We looked around the table. No fingers pointed to another. No eyes stared at a specific person. One lady, a writer of mystery answered, “This helps me know which character will go over the edge.”
“Why not put all of our fortunes together and see what we have,” I said. “We might be on to the beginning of a fantastic book.” All I got was silence and big eye stares.
After our review of the book for the evening, I returned home and begin thinking about fortune cookies and writing. They do have a lot in common. First, someone has written all of these proverbs, humorous sayings, statements, predictions, advice, and messages. Fortune cookies are not new and have been around for a long time, and remind me of words at play. Isn’t this what a writer does? Play with words until the right ones enter the mind and the fingers make this known on the keyboard. Here you get a good meal and at the end, possibilities for a new story.
The next time you open a fortune cookie, keep your message. No you cannot borrow or exchange your cookie with others. This was the message YOU picked up. It is YOUR personal message. Think of this as a prompt for your writing. Start keeping these fortune cookie messages in a jar, box, envelope, or what you have handy. Now, you have your own Fortune Cookie Prompt Jar. When you get stuck, dig in and find a new message. If you’ve used it before, replace and get another. Think of all the story starters these create and enjoy your Fortune Cookie Treasures.
Happy Hunting. Happy Fortunes. Happy Writing.
                                 HAPPY YOU.

 

 

 

 


					

LET YOUR IMAGINATION ROAM

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It is a free day to think about everything and nothing. Remember the child inside you and let go of all the ‘work’ or ‘writing’ thoughts rambling around in your head. IT’S PLAY TIME.
Sure we use our imagination to plot a novel, to bring our characters to life, or create a fantasy, but we are still in the thought mode for our readers. Let go and you’ll reap big rewards.
Think back and picture yourself stretched out on soft green grass, and looking up at the clouds play hide ‘n seek with the sun. You get a picture in your mind of something new. Turn loose and dreams become part of this picture. Clouds turn into different formations and as soon as you attach to one cloud, it disappears and another formation takes over. Clouds do not care about first place or even last place. They move along with the flow, creating new adventures for us to see. Yet, we are sometimes too busy to watch and miss out on a lot of images we could use in our lives.
Imagination is creative ability. Our minds form a mental picture of something we’ve never seen before. If you keep your imagination active, it is like a movie in your mind. Things seep inside and you become more involved with people and things around you. You gain the ability to think of new avenues, new possibilities, and yes, they can even be fantasies. These are your daytime dreams pushing you into chartered territories. These moments help you deal with problems, find solutions, and become more aware of possibilities in your life.
Your mind is not on a leash, but running with you in your head. You can hear new sounds, see new clouds form, feel more alive, and more relaxed at the same time. Solutions to a writing problem become clearer and you know what to do with your characters. This could also be an actual situation and you realize the changes you need to make in your life. Don’t ignore these mental images, rather embrace them and enjoy the changes they make in your personal or writing life.
Your imagination is alive and working. Run with the new images. Play with new mental pictures. See through your imagination and have fun.

HAPPY NEW THOUGHTS. HAPPY NEW DREAMS. HAPPY NEW WRITING.

IS YOUR WELL DRY?

Have you ever sat down to write and nothing happens? The screen stays blank. You continue to stare at all the white space without seeing even a squiggle or a flicker. Why? You are ready to write and write and write, but you feel you have a leak in your head. Everything up there is escaping. Air whistles in your ears like a locomotive on the railroad tracks, but does not send thoughts into your fingers. “I’m lost,” and you decide to turn the computer off and give up. WAIT! Not so fast. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities and causes of this dry well. It did not happen overnight.
Sometimes, we have so much in our minds, on our to-do-lists, problems at work, problems with the vacuum cleaner, problems forgetting to say ‘no’ that we are over extended. But, you need to get the submission out, you forgot to answer an email, and you listen to your overloaded mind give you all the excuses you want.
Yes, you are right. We do all of this to ourselves to get more done, more completed, more new thoughts, more new beginnings . . . and you can name them for yourselves. But, does this get results or more problems?
We are not machines. We load so much into our thoughts, we need a mental reprieve. Stop for just a moment and ask yourself what is the worst that can happen, and then take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back, and look around. Better yet, get up and walk around. Your space might be huge or extra small, but a few steps, with the knees lifted high, is better than sitting in a chair with our legs crossed, tension running up and down our spine. Get up and take a walk in the rain, snow, cold sunshine, and if you have a pet, this would be a great time to walk the dog. Do not hurry and observe everything you see, hear, feel, and smell.  We get so bogged down with writing, we forget to be human. Our chores become routine, and before we know it, they take over our lives. Guess what? The well goes dry. This little walk, refresher period, or nothing time becomes the most important part of your day.
Think about how the air smells. Do you detect a scent of cinnamon, a big juicy burger, or strong caffeine from a coffee shop. In this short time, you bring your senses forward, your listening sharpens, and your head feels less empty. The well is working, not at full speed, but working.
Back home, do not go directly to your computer, but feel your body come alive with new thoughts and new senses. Tomorrow, you will watch your fingers fly over the keys with words you never imagined.
Never get bogged down again. Take a much needed walk. See. Feel. Smell. Enjoy. The well will fill up again.
Happy Walking. Full Well. Happy Writing. Happy Reading.
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A Happy YOU