Sunday, November 30, 2008

Water For Elephants

It's been awhile since I've posted a book review, but this was one of those I felt deserved my attention. I didn't expect to like it. Too much hype. I hate hype and will usually avoid books or movies with too much hype (okay, except the Pirates movies, superhero movies and...I could go on). Still, I normally read thrillers, suspense, and romance and normally avoid hype, though not always. You can't publish enough romantic suspense for my taste. This was none of those.

I confess that I decided to read WATER FOR ELEPHANTS because of an article in the Poets and Writers magazine by Sara Gruen's agent and because I thought reading outside my normal genre might help inspire me.

I was not disappointed. I started it on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and only read for the hour and a half long trip it took to get to my destination. Then I read it going home that Friday (didn't get a chance during the Thanksgiving holiday) and I couldn't put it down, even after the drive. (Thank goodness I was only a passenger, huh?) All in all, it took me 2 days.

There was something about the writing that just drew me in to the story, as if I was actually reading the man's account of his time at the circus. Even when he was brought back into his present reality (a 90 year old man in a nursing home remembering his time in the circus during the great depression) I didn't feel like I was being jerked out of the story.

The characters were real, even written from a first POV. Actually, they were made more real in that way. I was disappointed to finish it, because now I feel I have nothing to read. You know how it is when you're finished with a good story and nothing seems to compare. I'll have to let it sit in my brain for a few days before I can get into another one.

So if you love to read and haven't yet read this one, I highly recommend it. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

With all the ads promising sales galore, Black Friday seems to be an event many shoppers don't want to miss.

Except me.

I've done done it, though I have thought about experiencing it just once. Still, I haven't seen that there are any deals worth the fuss of getting up that early and missing out on the time I'm usually spending with family. Besides, I caught the early sales before the holidays, so my Christmas shopping is taken care of and I got a good deal on things. It's not like the Black Friday sales are saving me 50% off the video game my hubby wants, and I found 50% off many wonderful things at Hobby Lobby before Thanksgiving, and I didn't have to fight the crowds.

What's your favorite part of the day after Thanksgiving? For me, it's spending time with family and eating leftovers. We play games, watch football, and visit. Then I go home and put up my Christmas tree!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

13 Reaons to Be Grateful

As we sit around the meal table with our family and wonderful food, let’s not forget all the reasons we should be thankful. Here’s 13 reasons I am grateful.

1. I’m grateful I’m able to feast like this with people who love me.
2. I’m grateful for my family.
3. I’m grateful for my life.
4. I’m grateful for a husband who loves, cherishes and understands me.
5. I’m grateful for my friends.
6. I’m grateful for my creativity.
7. I’m grateful for the things I take for granted.
8. I’m grateful for a beautiful flower growing wildly on the side of the road.
9. I’m grateful for my pets.
10. I’m grateful for my health.
11. I’m grateful to be able to follow my dream.
12. I’m grateful to own a successful business.
13. I’m grateful this world isn’t all about me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday 13: 13 Things My Cat Likes to Get Into

No, these pictures aren't staged. She really does just climb in and make herself comfortable. Here are 13 pics of what she likes to get into; later, I'll share what she likes to get on.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Craft an Album with absolutely no sewing!

With Christmas just around the corner and the economy the way it is, there is nothing more special than creating a gift for a loved one. I enjoy creating this for myself, but it makes a great gift too! They are so easy and a lot of fun. You can make a journal, a photo album, a binder notebook, or a business card album, just to name a few.

First, find the album you want. A binder notebook, an uncovered photo album or, in this situation, I used a business card album. This also works with notebook journals.

Figure out your theme. There are cheap fabrics and left over fabrics you can use, or maybe you have your own stash somewhere. For this theme, because it is a business card album that I place business cards in, thus sharing information with others, I used a pendant that, to me, looked like the earth. I used jewelry pieces that say "wish", "believe", "inspire", "share" and "create". For another photo album (see below), I used red beaded fringe, red fabric, and lady accessories such as shoes, a hat and a handbag. Choosing a theme is the funnest part, and your options are endless.

I could go crazy at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, or any other craft store. You can use iron on transfers or glue your own accessories from wood, jewwels, or anything. If you can sew, you have even more options! (Unfortunately, I don't/can't sew).

The materials you need will vary. A low-heat glue gun works best. Find fabric you like and some decorative accessories, like iron on patches and trims. You also need some kind of poster board (I use thick stock paper) for the inside of your album.

Measure the fabric around the album and cut to where you have a half inch to an inch of spare fabric.

Glue the fabric using a low heat glue gun.

Trim any excess pieces.

Measure, cut, and glue any trim pieces, fringe or ribbon you want to use around the album.

Take a piece of poster board or stock paper and measure the inside of the album. Cut the poster board so you will have just enough space to cover the inside, without it overlapping the outside.

Measure, cut and glue your fabric around the poster board. One side doesn't need fabric, since it will be face down on the inside of your album.

With your low heat glue gun, glue your covering to the inside of your album. This goes on top of your trim work, so as to cover the fringe or ribbon you used.

Adorn the outside with decorative pieces.

Admire your finished work.

Here are other albums I've done. They aren't perfect by any means, but they were fun, and that's the beauty of art.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

About my love of reading and writing...

As a reader, I’m looking for a story that makes me fall in love. As a writer I’m looking to reveal tension that grows until readers can’t wait another second to see what happens but hates the thought it’ll be over soon if they do keep reading. I write what I enjoy reading-romance, tension, profound characters, and suspense- and I write with a sense of purpose: to entertain, to make a reader feel emotions they didn’t know they were capable of feeling for a mere story, and to so enchant the reader that they will trust any new book that follows with my name.

Creativity in any form is a constant work in progress. As a writer, you must continue learning. Some writers say they don't read beause they don't want to be accused of taking over someone else's voice or stealing their idea. I say how sad. Reading helps me grow. I believe we are all individuals, and thus what we write will be unique.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thanks to my friend, Duckie, I have been awarded this:

Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the award, but what I dislike is picking 5 people to award it to next. That's the tough one. I have writing friends and colleagues, but how do I choose 5 out of the ones I do know?

So, because I don't always like to follow rules and I thrive on being "different", I'm not going to link to anyone else. With the holidays fast approaching, I know it's a tough time for those I would choose to link to. Instead, I'm going to rave on the person who sent me this award. Duckie is an amazing woman. If you haven't read her blog, you don't know what you're missing. I find myself envious at times of the things she comes up with. I wish had that much creativity and mind sparks. She posts funny pictures of her animals, different short stories everyone can follow, and other fun things almost every day! I don't know how she does it! As her blog becomes more and more popular, I know she's going to fulfill her dream soon, and I'm very excited for her.

Because I was curious about the blog featured on this award, I visited it (aren't links like this a great way to find new blogs?). What I saw there broke my heart, because it turns out one of her blogging friends has gone missing. I pray for this woman and her family.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

13 Ways to Feel Happier

1. Find yourself a hobby you are passionate about and stick with it. Even if you can’t do it everyday or every week, if this hobby gives you pleasure, try to do it when you have extra time, or make extra time for it.

2. Create something, even if you don’t feel like you’re a creator. Color a picture, paint by number, or hum a song in your head. Start that scrapbook you’ve always wanted to start or cut out pictures in a magazine and collage. There’s nothing more fulfilling than creating.

3. Make memories. I’ll never forget building Barbie houses with a cardboard box and making glue out of flour with my mother. Those are the kind of memories to leave with your children, and yourself.

4. Exercise. Exercise stimulates endorphins, exercise puts you in a good spirit. Exercise has so many benefits that there are millions of books written about it. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take time to exercise daily. Even a small walk around the block would do wonderful things for your emotional, as well as physical, well being.

5. Chew gum. Smack. Blow bubbles. Who cares if it’s annoying? Chewing has been proven to release endorphins, which is better than taking a happy pill. There’s nothing better than chewing a big wad of bubble gum and then popping it all over your face. Give it a try!

6. Breathe. I know you’ve heard it lots of times, and you probably say you already do it. After all, if you weren’t breathing, you wouldn’t be here, right? Well, that’s right, but breathing can do so much more for you than keep you alive. Exhaling releases wastes and toxins out of your body, while inhaling carries more oxygen, which is vital to your body’s function and carries more energy to your cells. It isn’t always easy to take slow deep breaths every single part of the day, but try to at least a few times a day throughout the day. Think about your breathing and it can become a habit. Make your breathing a more important part of your life.

7. Find a confidante. Talk about your frustrations with someone you can trust. Be careful, though, that this doesn’t get out of hand. I’ve vented frustrations out on people I thought were trustworthy and would understand, only to have them turn on me. Be sure you can trust this person not only to hold your confidence, but also to understand that your venting doesn’t make you any less of a person.

8. Accept each person as an individual. No one is going to be perfect, and no one is going to be what you want or expect them to be. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t cast judgments on others, when you yourself do things to irritate them. We will all irritate each other at one time or another. When this happens, instead of becoming angry or resentful, distance yourself from this individual but let them know you still love them.

9. Take time to get to know yourself. You’ve heard it before, but this time I really mean it. Really get to know yourself and what makes you angry. Next time, you may be better prepared when something happens to make you angry and you’ll be better able to deal with your feelings.

10. Pet a furry animal.

11. Sing loudly to your favorite song in the privacy of your own home (or in public if you want).

12. Dance with a mop if you don’t have a partner.

13. Remember that joy is ultimately up to you. You are in control of how you feel. Nobody else can make you happy, even if the man that sent you those roses made you happy at that instant. You can choose to be angry or you can choose to be happy. You can choose to react to a situation badly, or you can choose to react to a situation with self-control. Don’t let your emotions control you. You have to learn to control your emotions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Beauty of Art

You don't have to have a Masters
or be a graduate of Julliards.
Art comes in all shapes and sizes
and some may even be awkward.

You may not be able to draw a straight line,
and you may not be able to hold a note.
Your art may only be a seed of an idea
or it may only be something you promote.

But that's the beauty of art, you see
even if you don't sing or paint.
Art is around us everywhere
and our world was created to create.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Believing Mirrors

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share you riches, but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

If you are a writer or creator of any kind and you’ve never read Julia Cameron, you don’t know what you’re missing. Currently, I am reading FINDING WATER, and it has been helping me find my way again. Earlier I spoke of losing my way and dealing with depression. Julia’s book (I feel like I’m on a first name basis with her because her books are so personal) has helped me in several ways. 1) Morning pages—write every morning. I used to get up and stretch my body. Now I get up and stretch my mind. 2) The issues she has dealt with are issues I have or I am dealing with, and I realize I’m not alone. 3) Her writing is beautiful.

In FINDING WATER, Julia talks about Believing Mirrors and how important they are to a writer, or to any artist. If we didn’t have this type of encouragement, where would we be? Unfortunately, some encouraging friends are good when things are going well for you or them, but Believing Mirrors are supportive through the good and the bad times. They support and even encourage your dreams, even if they don’t understand or agree with them. They help you focus on the positive and never ever let you give up. They will never ever tell you your dream is crazy but will support it no matter what. They will believe in YOU and that YOU can accomplish whatever you set your mind to. They understand things take work, but will continue to encourage you through your work. Above all, a Believing Mirror will encourage you to do better than the average but they DO NOT merely blow smoke up your you-know-what. They support and encourage you, but also tell you (if they’ve read your work) what could be better, what needs to be changed or what you’re doing wrong. They’re not afraid to speak their mind because they trust your relationship and know that you will not get angry at the truth, and vice versa.

I have Believing Mirrors in many of my friends (Miranda, Jennifer, Nina, to name a few!) But I also have friends who know I’m a writer, but don’t really support me or let me cry on them when I need them. Whether they don’t realize how important it is or just don’t care, I feel I can’t go to them for conversation about certain topics. That’s fine. I have discovered who not to bother though it’s sad, because I am always supportive. I’ve also noticed that my best Believing Mirrors are writers themselves. It seems like the most supportive people in the world are writers, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s because we realize how difficult it is to do it all alone, even though writing is probably one of the most solitary positions you’ll find. We also realize that, if we just keep trucking along, we’ll get somewhere.

So this post about Believing Mirrors is a shout out to my Believing Mirrors as a Big Thank You! Many of us may call it a support group, or just a really good friend or even a critique partner, but I like how Julia refers to it as a Believing Mirror. We can’t have Believing Mirrors without mirroring that faith. We have to be one in turn. Are you a Believing Mirror for others?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I killed off a character today...

At first, I didn’t like the character, but as I wrote more about him and realized his vulnerabilities, I started to feel a kinship toward him and felt bad about killing him. Though I tried to think of ways to save him, I had to kill him to advance my story.

He isn’t a main character, nor is he the main villain, so it was time for him to go, and killing him was the only way. I always hate watching movies where I get to know the character and then they kill him. I don’t want reality in my fantasy world! In my world, the good characters are supposed to live forever and the villains are the ones who die! Unfortunately, even in fiction, that isn’t always the case. I guess time will tell what happens to the villain. Right now, I have to watch my back. He may pop up at any moment...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Writing…My Antidepressant

I’ve been reading a couple of books from Eric Maisel, who is a creativity coach and psychologist. Recently I came across an article in RWA’s Romance Writers Report by Eric Maisel that talks about what I’ve been reading…creativity and depression. It’s something I’ve been dealing with a lot lately.
I’ve always blamed it on my job. Oh, if only I could just quit my job and write whenever I wanted. I wouldn’t get tired at the desk job, sitting at the computer, entering monotonous data into the system. I could focus on my story whenever I wanted and wouldn’t be too drained to write when I came home from work. I had (and still have) a romantic ideal of what my life could be like if only I made enough money writing and could quit my job.
With that notion in my head, I became even more depressed. I can’t quit my job and write. I may never be able to quit my job and write. I may have to steal (make) time whenever I can to pursue my passion and not let my full time job affect my creativity. I became even more discouraged. I wanted to write, but didn’t have the energy. My job drained me, I couldn’t deal with my boss another day, I couldn’t find another job that wouldn’t require me to commute up to 60 miles one way. What was the point in writing? Never mind the fact that I love it. Writing is like an anti-depressant and is truly the only thing that makes me feel better at the end of the day. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, and that is what Eric in his books discusses. Even if nobody ever reads my stories, I’ve created. Creative people are more prone to depression because their life has to feel meaningful. For awhile, I lost my meaning. I published two books, but my life was still the same. It took a lot of work, I hated my job, and things didn’t change. If anything, I had to work harder. I had two books published, what would happen if I didn’t publish anymore? I had to work to get my name out there, talk to people about getting my books on the shelf, set up my own booksignings when I barely had the time to write, much less sit in a bookstore where the only person who comes to your signing is a friend.
There was always some kind of discouragement along the way. If you believe in God, then you can believe Satan was after me. After all, he doesn’t want us to succeed at anything. And boy, did I have plenty of discouragement. My internet at home had its ups and downs (the joys of living out of the city limits of what is already a small town). Health issues arose (that weren’t that big of a deal unless you already have a full plate). A hail storm, family issues, other financial problems. Lightning struck my home and I lost my computer (thank God for back ups). Just when I decided to start blogging again, I lost my internet for a while. Starting a new business while I continued to work my full time job and the downtimes the business had, with growing financial problems. Whew, how in the world was I going to balance everything?
A friend likened my life to pie. I have certain sections that I must take care of and at the moment, I wasn’t. Hand over some of these issues. Let my husband take care of the business side while I take care of the home side. What?!? My husband can run the business, but even he doesn’t want to run the finances. I have to take care of things.
Hubby asked me if I was going to use these experiences in my story. What?!? I want to forget these experiences, not use them. No, but my heroine has her own full plate and is able to deal with it. She’ll deal with it better than I ever did.
It got easier along the way. We’ve been in business for a year and though it’s not enough for me to be able to quit my job and write full time, we’ve accomplished something and I’ve realized a few things. I want to write. I will write because I love it and for no other reason. Nothing, not even my own inner critic (telling me I didn’t go to college, what right do I have, blah blah blah), can stop me.
I lost my way for awhile, but I found it again. Writing is the only anti-depressant I need!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

13 Reasons NaBloPoMo is so difficult...

1. Full time job
2. Business to tend to
3. Writing to tend to
4. No ideas
5. Too tired
6. Where’s the motivation?
7. Is NaBloPoMo over yet?
8. How does one blog everyday?
9. How does one come up with ideas to blog?
10. My brain doesn’t function after work if I go directly to the computer again
11. Exercise is more important
12. I haven’t relaxed with a glass of wine yet
13. I need food

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy Birthday!

My niece turns 7 years old today!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day...

I'm not going to get into what I think of the candidates, and I'm sure we won't find out who our next president will be for days. All I can say is, I hope what America gets will be best for her (and a hell of a lot better than the last one).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Starting a New Business in Shady Times

How to Succeed in a Failing Economy

Most people would have told my husband and I that it wasn’t a good time to start our new business, but we wouldn’t have listened. Is there truly ever a good time to start a new business in corporate America if you don’t have the right people on your side? Because we started with next to no money and loans galore, we have learned a lot from our mistakes, and we've been in business for one year now! Because there have been so many lay-offs and the ecomony is so scary, here are a few ideas to help you if you're thinking of going down that road.

Use What You Have
With times as they are and no end in site, many people are hanging on to jobs they are either unhappy with, or they have lost their job and have no where to go. My husband had worked in the collision repair industry for ages, so he had plenty of body shop tools. What he didn’t have, he knew someone who was willing to sell a tool. There are some things we had to do without, but we had to watch our money closely and do without a few things. If you decide to start a new business from scratch and have nothing to work with, your costs go up exponentially.

Do It Alone
Do you really need an employee to micromanage, or can you do it yourself? Having employees may articulate that you are successful, but if you are able to do everything on your own, you cut your costs by doing so. Let's face it: Small Business are Taxed, Taxed, Taxed! Not only do you have to pay the employee, you have to pay taxes and insurance on them and worker's compensation. Even if you start to thrive and have to say no to people because you can’t do it all yourself, give yourself time to grow before hiring someone else. Start small, even if you have to turn away potential customers. There is such a thing as thriving too quickly.

Have the Right Tools
Even if it’s just you, tracking your finances is important. I found that Quick Books Pro was the best way to do this, but if you can keep your own spreadsheet, more power to you.

Let’s face it. Most businesses fail for lack of capital. It’s important to keep overhead costs to a minimum. Do the cleaning yourself. Have your spouse or kids help with something. Maybe your children’s friends will want to help. Advertising gets expensive, so try to depend on word of mouth.

If you’re good at what you do, location shouldn’t matter, but it does help.

Again, if you can do most of this yourself, then by all means, do. We spent a fortune on radio ads, and it didn’t help at all, but we've learned from our mistakes. A good placed ad in the newspaper might help, but be sure you don’t pay for it without knowing exactly what you’re getting. By far, joining the Chamber of Commerce is your best advertising option, but be sure to take all they have to offer. Vistaprint or any of the other online printing services makes great business cards for cheap, and National Pen offers good deals, too. Watch them for those deals, and you may get a lot for next to nothing.

Take Care of Your Costumers
They are the ones keeping you in business. Send them a thank you card, a Christmas card, a birthday card. Anything to make them remember you and to show your appreciation. Go out of your way to make yourself stand out from your competition.

Take Time
If you’re doing everything yourself, you have to take the time to research, learn, enter you financials, make phone calls, make records, and other necessary tasks of running a business. My husband runs the business end, I run the financial end. I try to set aside Saturday mornings, as I drink a cup of coffee, to enter our checkbook into Quickbooks and pay the upcoming bills such as rent and utilities. Because our business is so small, we only use a CPA at the end of the year.

Though running a business requires time, be sure to take time for yourself as well! I don’t let this business take over what I am really passionate about: writing. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and count your blessings. We’re not making it rich (how can you in corporate America?) but my husband isn’t spending gas to commute everyday to work. We've made it a year, and they say a year is your hardest yet. Already we have grown, and that is something to be proud of.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Daylight Savings Time Ends!

The weather in Texas is cooler, the foliage is turning brown (not too colorful in these parts), and the sun sets a little sooner everyday. Now it's time to turn the clock back, so it'll be dark when I leave and dark when I get home. It's funny, though, that I get more writing done in these months than any other time. I guess because I can't go outside in the evening, and there's really not much else to do BUT write.

The pumpkins are out and it feels like autumn now. Thanksgiving will be here soon and before you know it, Christmas. Have you started your shopping? I haven't!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo)

I’m committing myself (and should be committed) to posting one entry a day in November for National Blog Posting Month. Since I’m not ready to join National Novel Writing Month and because my blog has been seriously lacking in material, I’m going to attempt to write in a month that is probably the most difficult month, what with the holidays coming up.

The goal of NaBloPoMo is to post every day for the month of November. There are forums out there and websites where you can check in and post how you’re doing, but I’m going to have enough troubles actually posting to my blog, much less posting to another. We’ll see how that goes. For now, stay tuned with me. Let’s see if I have enough material (and time) for an everyday post. And let me know how I’m doing!