Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Living in Fear (Podcast #1)

(NOTE: Welcome to my first attempt at podcasting alongside a blog post. The message is the same. Listen or read. Your choice. Since I cannot meet all of you, I wanted to connect in a more human manner. Let me know how you like it! Thanks everybody...Hope) 

OR -

Living in Fear

Anybody who's followed me for long knows that I latch a hold of inspirational sayings. I assume that whatever motivates me, also has a strong chance of motivating you. I ran across this one today and that spark started smoking in my brain....the one that makes me flip into my blog and post an idea before it flits away. The saying goes like this:

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.

    ~Les Brown

Few things sadden me more than seeing people not use their talent. Sometimes that talent is hidden behind a rusty lack of use, or it hasn't been unearthed for fear of where it would take the owner. Heck, someone may not know whether they have talent or not, because they haven't tried. Taking a detour from the life they already have in place is scary, or the person just doesn't have the nerve to turn the wheel onto a new road.

Or somewhere along the way, in using our talent, we got shot down, and we are afraid of stepping back up to the task and making another attempt. Getting shot down stings. Sometimes we outright bleed from the damage. At that time, all we want to do is crawl home and forget about what happened.

We don't like being criticized. Who likes being told he's wrong? So we dodge that criticism, and in doing so, we dodge the dream. We avoid using our talent. Actually....we are just living our fears.

Life is full of ups and downs. We love the ups--hate the downs--and are satisfied finding a level middle ground where nothing unsettles us. But avoiding the pain means avoiding the ecstasy. 

Why do you think you enjoy movies and books where the bad guy faces impossible odds, loses face, gets damaged, almost dies, then somehow climbs out of the hole, cobbles his life together and figures out how to come out on top?

We want that! Or at least, we want the good part at the end. But we can't get that without taking the journey.

Frankly, those stories are your temporary fix--your escape--your dose of what could be your life. But many of use leave the theatre or close the book, and remain planted where we are. Call it head-in-the-sand or call it wanting an easy life, but I know you. You are not much different than the rest of the world. You want your life to be meaningful. You'd like to stand for something or be remembered or build a legacy. You want to feel good that you lived.

Avoiding your dreams, and the struggles that come with it, is choosing to live in fear. Choose to live happy. Choose to live with purpose. In that effort, you choose NOT to live in fear.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One Day I'll Write This Story

(NOTE: "I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because my right brain can't communicate with my left brain when I'm writing magic. Give it a test drive.)
I got my hair cut today. My hairdresser Nicole is a sweet lady, and prettier than she thinks. Like a great bartender, she knows how to carry on with her clients. We chatter while she attempts to make my mane even, which isn't often easy. She thinks I need short, short hair. I love feeling the weight. Anyway, the visit is enjoyable.

This time, she said THE words: "If I had time, I'd write this book I've had in my mind for a long time."

I smile and listen. She elaborates. It's a children's tale about Bomber Island in our local Lake Murray (my lake) where Purple Martins migrate each  year. You can still find ammo shells on that island, that was used by the Doolittle Raiders in WWII. We have boat cruises as well as personal pontoon ventures each night during the month-long event, loaded with birdwatchers and locals who watch hundreds of thousands of these birds swoop and dance in sync as they settle for each night. It's gorgeous. I won't give her story away, but it's very smart. Also:
  • My friend at Edisto Beach has a story to tell about marital trials, and they are definitely unique.
  • My high school English teacher has a true crime story to tell that would chill your bones.

  • A saleslady in Dillards went on about her legal battle, so anxious to tell others about loopholes in the system.
  • My neighbor is 80, a self-made man who's quite accomplished. His biography is intriguing, and he's trying to find a way to write it.

The list is endless. So many people have remarkable stories, stories that stay in their heads and aren't getting on the paper. Some ask me to write them, the line normally: "When you finish your current book, I have the next one you need to write."

I do not discount their stories. Most are phenomenal, and to those people these stories are important. However, somewhere in their enthusiasm, when they've paused to take a breath, I say: "That's your story to tell, not mine."

That makes them pause. I've respected their story. They've respected my writing ability by asking me to take up their torch. We've made each other happy. The truth is, however, they hold the passion, not me.

A high percentage of these tales (I'd even venture to guess ninety-plus percent) will never be recorded. That saddens me. These stories don't have to be bestsellers. They don't even have to land on bookstore shelves, but these ideas and experiences evaporate as time creeps on, locked in one mind and gone as that life joins others past. Those ideas and experiences vanished for all time.

If you have a story, write it. Leave your mark. 

Make copies and pass them around at Christmas. Post them on your blog. Self-publish if this is a story you want remembered as part your legacy. There's the traditional publishing path via agents and publishers if you're game to understanding the business.

You can be a storyteller without becoming a professional writer. Sure, you can try to publish it for sales, and how glorious if you can sell it and earn a living, but do not lose the opportunity to record your story. Take the effort. Weave the words. Tell the tale.

Frankly, only then will you be able to tell whether writing is your passion, or if this story just needed exorcizing from your mind. Either way, you'll have told the story.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


If I asked you which author gave you chills, I bet you could rattle the name off without thinking. Mine is Pat Conroy. Second Jodi Picoult. Third Lisa Gardner. And I'm always open to some new name that can take any one of their place. I just want that feeling that snatches me out of this world and into another, riding on lyrical phrasing that steals my breath.

These are the books that you will pay full price for. . .

You know who the authors are because when you hear about their next release, you get primed, watching the news, anxiously waiting for the release date. These are the books that you will pay full price for, not wait until months later when the price drops to half thanks to some Amazon Daily Deal.

You feel the same about musicians, I bet, buying anything a particular artist creates, because you know it'll touch you in some way. Scientists say that such music gives us chills. While that sounds like a cliche, it's not. There's a physiological response to the music that "gives you chills."

Mental Floss is an online publication I read, most often prompted by my MENSA online newsletter. Call me geeky, but I look forward to this publication, because it enlightens me to new discoveries and gives me AHA moments.  Recently, Mental Floss published a piece by Lucas Reilly entitled "Why Does Music Give Us Chills?"

When your playlist strikes all the right chords, your body can go on a physiological joyride. Your heart rate increases. Your pupils dilate. Your body temperature rises. Blood redirects to your legs. Your cerebellum—mission control for body movement—becomes more active. Your brain flushes with dopamine and a tingly chill whisks down your back.

I got chills reading that article about chills! 


Readers crave, with a passion, those stories that give them chills. Think of the stories that stick with you. Then go back and dissect them, trying to understand what talent in those words resonate into physiological responses. Those stories are the best educational tool you could ever use in designing your own work. Not some how-to book. Not a conference. While those are good refreshers and reminders, they are not teaching by example. We all know that emulation, doing instead of reading someone's how-to-do lesson, sinks deeper into our minds.

Dissect the stories that give you chills. 


And a series that gives you chills is a goldmine. Studies also show that-- 
The most powerful chills may occur when you know what’s coming next. When our expectations are being met, the nucleus accumbens becomes more active. This ties back to that dopamine-inducing guessing game our brain likes to play. As a result, being familiar can enhance the thrill of the chill.

And finally, dare to break molds. Dare to be daring as you read, and as you write. Sticking to what's safe and comfortable can mute that chill-factor.

---researchers in Germany found that people who felt chills were less likely to be thrill seekers, but were more reward-driven.

Yes, I know this is about music. You  may think music is different than writing. But is it? Music takes you away. It taps emotion. It attaches to memories. It defines you in special ways.

So does remarkable writing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why Do You Read? (Sequel to Why Do You Write?)

Not all of us write, but all of us read. Or should read. (Hands over my ears, singing NA-NA-NA-NA if you tell me you don't have time to read.)

Just a quick side rant on why you SHOULD read, and read a lot!

1) You get smarter. Yes indeedy, you do.
2) You write better. Yep, it's osmosis of a sort.
3) You relax.
4) You escape from the rat race.
5) You become enlightened on multiple plains.

Which brings me to YOU. Why do YOU read. You might not be a writer. Just think about being one of the millions out there, seeking a book to read. What draws you to reading?

I speak to many groups, from small book clubs, to library events, to bookstore signings, to writer conferences. Of course most (not all) of those people are avid readers, and you'd be surprised at their comments about what and why they read (or don't). Don't assume that everyone you see in this business is a serious reader. I've heard the following:

1) I don't read anything with murder in it.
2) I don't read anything with animals in it.
3) I only read positive books.
4) I only read nonfiction.
5) I only read biographies.
6) I read young adult, it's easier.
7) I only read series.
8) I love a good new author.
9) I read to kill time during my commute.
10) I read to go to sleep.
11) I read to escape the day. 
12) I read when I'm caught up at work.
13) I read in the summer when the kids are out of school.
14) I don't have time to read and write, too, so I rarely read.
15) I never buy books. I check them out at the library.
16) Who has time to read?

Why do you read? That usually drives what you read. (It often defines what you write.) You might not buy Dan Brown's complex mysteries if you only grab a chapter here and there while waiting in line at the bank. You might read cozy plots if on vacation at the beach. You might read romance on your e-reader so your husband doesn't know (love that one). You only read books that you want your children to be able to read. You only read mysteries because you love a challenge and guessing the end.

Bottom line, the world is filled with any type book you need to read, and no two readers are alike in their quests. So . . . WHY DO YOU READ? And if you are a writer, WHAT DID YOU JUST LEARN ABOUT HOW TO TARGET READERS?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why Do You Write?

If you want to hear a lot of cliches, ask a room full of writers why they write. For being people of words, they sure don't use too many original ones when they respond.

"I can't NOT do it."
"Writing is like breathing."
"I have a story to tell."

Frankly, I see it as raw talent completely within my control to screw up, polish, excel at and enjoy. It's empowerment. God (or the power you believe in) gave me a seed of desire to write, then cast me into the world to see what I'd do with it. If I lost everything in my life, I could still write. That makes it a friend, a close one. Yeah, I feel all those cliche sayings above, but writing is more than that. It's a huge guide through my life.

Grant Snyder, , addressed ambition in an infographic comic. I easily equated it to why we write. To paraphrase:

We love what we do. We work hard at it, growing it, becoming recognized for it. Competition challenges us, sometimes instilling self-doubt. We worry, we struggle, and if we're dedicated, we grow into a bigger force. And sometimes we lose control of it, or take the wrong path with it . . . and we crash. You're left with one thing . . . the ambition that started you going in the first place.

Like that one friend that sticks by you through thick and thin . . . you always have writing.

Now . . . why do you write?

 * * * * * * * * * *
(For more on Grant Snyder:
Twitter - @grantdraws
Facebook - Incidental Comics
Tumblr - Incidental Comics )

Friday, July 05, 2013

In the Beginning...

Hi Hope,
I'd be interested in hearing about before you were published and any challenges or failures you may have encountered at that point of your writing journey.  Like-- how did you navigate those rough waters?  Did you ever think of giving up? You are hugely successful now, but what was the road like that got you there?  Might be an interesting topic for your newsletter, as many of us readers are in the "struggling" category and could relate.



Oh WOW. When I received this, I sat back in my chair, marveling. Rather than protest about the validity or realization about my "fame," I decided to answer her questions as written, thinking that my challenges might help her see that the uphill battle can be uplifting as well.

First, the challenges never go away. They just change what they look like. In the beginning, I struggled to write any story with a beginning, middle and ending that didn't slump a third of the way in. Then I struggled to find a voice. That process took, like, forever. As a shy writer, I feared putting material out there that wasn't any good, but the pressure to publish was fierce, so of course I learned that through...failure.

FAILURE: I jumped too soon and produced a self-pubbed book . . . through AuthorHouse, no less. And almost as soon as it was out, I regretted it. I immediately recognized its shortcomings, and my premature urge to hold a book in my hands. I worked hard to banish it from the planet. It's not to easy to obtain these days, thank goodness.

There was the struggle to find magazine markets to earn some money while I struggled with the books. I got crazy trying to write "what I know" to every editor with an email address or post office box.

FAILURE: I pitched feature stories to two competing magazines, on the same topic, but written differently from different angles. Both magazines took my pitches. And unfortunately, both articles came out in the same
month. One particular editor was NOT happy with me . . . for several years.

Platform wasn't a buzzword when I started out. Branding was the term. To me, it was about getting published enough times online and in print to get noticed. I created a website and a newsletter.

FAILURE: I used a free service to deliver my newsletters and learned you get what you pay for when the newsletters couldn't be delivered reliably. I used a free service for my website then learned that with FREE comes restrictions.

Other lessons I learned along the way:

1) Marketing takes at least 25% of your "writing" time or nobody ever hears of you, much less remembers you.

2) Social networking is a Godsend in terms of name recognition . . .assuming you work it and don't let it work you.

3) Don't work so hard to repurpose articles. In the time it takes for you to "disguise" it for another publisher, you could have written a new one and literally sounded fresher.

4) The more you try to be like others, the less you are yourself. Editors, publishers and agents want something and someone new.

5) I have to write ten times as many words as I keep. And of those, I'll probably sell ten percent. I accept the fact I have to write a lot of words that will never see the light of day, in order to learn how to write better.

6) Because I wrote something doesn't mean it has to be published.

7) About the time I think I don't need help writing better is when I need the most help.

Note the frequent use of the word STRUGGLING.

Change never stops.
We never arrive.
We can't rest on laurels.

We operate in a profession that's fickle and ever-changing. And humility is one of the best tools we can include in our writer's toolbox, because trust me, you'll need to use it often.