Things I've Learned

Journal Entry
  • Monday Musings

    My head is stuck in a strange place today. In the last thirteen months my life has taken quite a few big twists. Each one has scared the crap out of me and each one has taken me to a better place in my life. Most days I can see that it's all worth it. 

    Today I need to find a way to remind myself that there is good ahead. I don't know if it's a Rainy Day and Monday sort of thing, or just that I am overtired and wondering if the ability to turn the bad into good has been all used up and I am going to have to deal with that moving forward. All I know is that I'm focusing on everything that isn't working for me today and feel like a curtain has been drawn over the light at the end of the tunnel. 

    I know for a fact that this is not a feeling that is unique to me. I know that - especially for people who venture out on their own and put themselves out there - self-doubt is something that must occaisionally be battled. I've worked with enough authors to know that it hits even the best (the stories I could tell about some of your favorite authors deleting whole manuscripts because they think they're crap, or missing deadlines as they struggle to believe that what they have written is worthy to be sent in).

    I'd like to tell you that this is going to be a well written piece on how to overcome these feelings, alas, I am stuck in the midst of it right now and am having trouble believing I will overcome at this precise moment. So instead I will tell you that I'm going to pour myself a glass of wine, I'm going to watch some guilty pleasure reality television and I'm going to bed tonight with my mother's voice in my head, "This too shall pass."

  • Five Question Friday

    I have been a long time fan of Inside the Actor's Studio, and my favorite part has always been the questionaire at the end. That is my vision for Five Question Friday. I have come up with a list of five questions, and I will have different guests answer them each week. As a new idea, you might see some tweaking - at least at first - as I try to come up with the right formula. Your input is greatly appreciated.

    Today, my friend, and author, Beth Ciotta has answered my five questions. Beth is extremely talented - and quite prolific these days - as author of The Cupcake Lovers series for St. Martins Press, has published two incredible steampunk novels (Her Sky Cowboy, His Clockwork Canary) and so much more. Visit her webpage to see it all! In addition, Beth is a part of a really exciting Christmas Anthology (The Keepers: Christmas in Salem) with Heather Graham, Kathleen Pickering and Deborah LeBlanc that is out today.

    That being said, here are Beth's responses to DRE&MS Five Friday Questions...

    1. What are you reading? Sizzle by Julie Garwood

    2. What do you do for relaxation? Walk my dogs

    3. What is playing on your iPod? Various movie scores

    4. What is your current guilty pleasure? Caramel popcorn

    5. What do you want to share? Stories that make a positive difference. Right now I'm focused on my Cupcake Lovers novels. A small town contemporary series with a big heart.

    Please check out Beth and all her great work and stop back next week for another Five Question Friday!

  • Picking the Right Reads for Vacation, or...What If I Don't Like It?

    I am on vacation this week and getting to do something that I really haven't been able to do for a while - I'm reading for pleasure.

    It was quite an adventure packing. I mean it's always an adventure for me to pack. I'm that last minute girl, throwing things in a suitcase moments before leaving, praying that this time I actually packed outfits that match and haven't forgotten the left shoe of my favorite pair of heels. But this time was different. I knew I would be spending much time at the beach and so I went to the box of books I brought home from this years BEA Convention with an eye to what I might enjoy while sitting in the sand, waves lapping close by. What would keep my interest and propel me through? What would I want to read without wishing I was one of those people who could put down a book I wasn't enjoying?

    I can't. I have never walked out of a movie or play, and I can not put down a book before finishing it. I always convince myself "Hey, it might get better." Usually it doesn't. 

    This makes the selection period extremely difficult. I read the back. I check out the quotes from other authors. I flip through the pages looking for white space (I tend to like a faster paced book and a book with little white space has typically been much more narrative and slower paced, in my experience). I build piles based on my initial perceived level of interrst and then go back again and try to narrow it down some more. What do I want this trip? Something to make me laugh? A legal thriller? Something that might tug at my heartstrings? 

    It truly is a grueling process.

    Even through all of this work, occaisionally one slips in that just doesn't live up to expectations, and then I am frustrated. You see, as I said earlier, I cannot put a book down without finishing it. I can't go on to something else until I am done. What I can do is get easily distracted and continue to stall on reading it. I can notice the dirty dishes or the person that I would rather chat with (even if that person is someone I never would have noticed if the book was better). I can take months finishing a book that I don't like, and I only have one week to read as many books that I do like as is humanly possible.

    So the pressure is on me to truly pick some good ones for this week and so far I am doing well. But, my question to you is, are you able to stop reading a book you aren't enjoying? What can make you put down a book without finishing it? Do you have a deal breaker? Something that will shut that cover and propel the book back to the box? 

    Perhaps it is a skill that I can learn.

  • Something New

    I’m still in Florida, staying with a friend. Now is not the time to talk about being in this beautiful Miami weather while my husband, son and puppy are living through Northeast winter storms. I’ll save that for when the wounds aren’t quite so fresh for them. I’d hate to have them think I’m rubbing their noses in the fact that I have been wearing sandals every day for more than a week. That would simply be mean.

    So instead I thought I’d share about breaking out and trying different things. Today after going out to lunch, my friend and I took a walk to go get coffee and I noticed a little store, le macaron, and was reminded of my daughter telling me about some amazing macarons a friend had brought her a few weeks ago. Walking in was like being transported to a small patisserie in France. The woman working the counter along with the only other customers in the place were speaking French. And just everything, from what filled the cases to the charming little boxes for the homemade candies and macarons, was like nothing I had ever seen before. Eldest daughter had tried to describe the treats she’d received, but I didn’t get it. I could only picture the coconut macaroons I had been exposed to, and that had never interested me in the least. This was incredibly different. With flavors like Basil White Chocolate, Black Currant, Candied Ginger Chocolate, Sicilian Pistachio, Madagascar Black Vanilla, Caramel Fleur de Sel, Creme de Rose and more, I was thrown into a gastric frenzy as I tried to pick 4 for my half of the box we were sharing. Finally narrowed it down to Columbian Coffee, Ginger Bread, Basil White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Dark Chocolate. 

    Tonight’s treat, the Basil White Chocolate. I’ve had four people already sound off on my choice and their general disinterest in this flavor combination, but can I just say, yum. It was probably one of the most amazing little treats I have ever had. 

    I could have walked in today and gotten Vanilla, Chocolate, Raspberry, all familiar flavors that i know I enjoy, but where would the fun be in that. I could have walked in, looked around and left without sampling these interesting treats. I did neither of these things. I took a chance and tried something new. I took that first bite of the strangely green little cookie, totally unsure what I would be getting and how I would like it. I really had nothing I could use as a reference point as to how this would be. Maybe that added a little to the enjoyment, almost like waiting in line for the roller coaster is half the fun of the ride. 

    I took that bite and just stopped for a minute. I may have closed my eyes and moaned a little. I don't know. I do know that I felt compelled to photograph said macaron. I do know that I thought, “I am totally thankful that I chose this treat today.” I do know that I have now spent thirty minutes writing this and reliving that moment over and over all the while wishing I purchased more of the pricey, tasty treats. I also know that I wish I was independently wealthy so that I could order le macarons delivered to me on a regular basis when I return home to the arctic New York town I live in.

    And I really know that I am glad that I tried something new today and I’m pretty sure I’ll be more likely to try other new things in the future.

    What new things might you try in the near future?

  • Running, Reaching, Rewarding

    I started running today.

    Those that know me will be shocked that no one was chasing me, it wasn’t for general admission seating at a show and there was no massive clearance sale at the end of a tunnel. I closed up my computer desk, got off of my couch, put on sweats and five layers of tops (it’s about 21 degrees today), put my hair in a ponytail, unburied my sneakers, found a pair of gloves and intentionally walked outside.

    Today I started a program my daughter shared with me called Couch 2 5K. There is a very helpful app on my iPhone that tells me when to run and when to walk. I can play my own music in the background. Day 1 didn’t look like it should be too bad – 5 minute warm up brisk walk, followed by alternating 60 seconds running with 90 seconds walking for 20 minutes and then another 5 minute brisk walk to cool down. Just 30 minutes. I can do that, right?

    The answer is right!

    I did it. Might not seem like much to a lot of you out there, but it was big for me. Now to keep it up 3 times a week. My goal is to run in the Color Run when it comes to Buffalo this summer. Or better yet, figure out how to get down to Florida and run one with my daughters. It’s only been one day, but I believe it is possible.

    On my Facebook page, my Tip for Today was a Michelangelo quote:

    “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

    The end of 2012 was a time of change for me that I have spoken of often. Change is over. My life is now my life, and 2013 is going to be all about what I make of it.

    1. I will make my business a success with the support of great friends, with the growth of exposure and contacts and wonderful clients who make sitting in front of my computer every day a pleasure.
    2. I will start to look on the outside the way I feel on the inside and not vice versa. I am happy and healthy, blessed and love and I want those who meet me to know that at first glance. I will watch what I eat, take care of myself and present myself at my best even if it’s just to me some days.
    3. I will find time to write for me this year.
    4. I will make choices throughout the year that take me closer to where I want to be in my life. The changes won’t happen over night, but making choices that move us in that direction will be in the forefront of my mind.

    This year I will not aim low just so I can say I got there. This year I’m aiming big and if I miss any of these goals, it won’t be without some pulled muscles from stretching to get there.

    What do you want to stretch for?

  • Help Wanted from the Writing Community for Newtown.

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a group of authors in Connecticut that are working with Newtown School District on a journaling project to help the students throughout the district work through their grief and feelings following the shooting that happened there before Christmas. I said then, and I still feel today that it is an exceptional way for us - as a writing community - to come together and help in a tangible way.

    They are asking for journal donations and for the people donating to inscribe their own encouraging words on the inside cover. The authors are beginning their training this week with grief counsellors and have so far received 80 journals from around the country. 

    But I know we can do better than that. I know that by spreading the word throughout all of our communities we can help make sure that every student is given the opportunity to have a safe place to purge their thoughts and feelings and learn healthy ways of dealing with their hurt and anger. 

    I am asking everyone to share this information with their circle of friends and let’s see how much help we can provide. We see a lot of people talking all over our social media sites about their political thoughts and opinions. I am watching people de-friend people who oppose them. We are dividing as a country over theories and opinions. Let’s come together to help.

    We can agree on that one thing, can’t we?


    Journals can be mailed to:

    Words Heal

    c/o Knee High Academy

    43 Hall Avenue

    Wallingford, CT 06492

    They are asking to receive all donations by January 31, 2013. They want everyone to know that all journals will be delivered to the Newtown School Guidance Department. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I will do what I can.


  • With A Little Help From My Friends

    am still getting used to life as a solitary existence. 

    For years I worked in either offices or in retail and there were almost always people around me. Someone you could turn to when something funny happened to laugh with, someone who would listen to your complaints about some new policy or annoying customer and commiserate, even just someone you could see in the morning and start your day with a, “Oh my goodness! You’ll never believe what happened last night!”

    Now, I wake up to my empty house, since DH and beloved son leave VERY early for work. I am greeted by two cats that apparently prefer my daily work space for their evening slumber and a puppy who wants nothing more than to have my attention, but just doesn’t give me the aforementioned responses that I’d come to expect at in the workplace. 

    I am truly living my dream right now, starting a company doing something I love, working with people I admire and respect. It’s what I’ve wanted for quite a long time. Circumstances recently forced my hand, thrusting me into this new life sooner than I expected, but that’s OK. Sometimes change needs to be forced upon you. I am really happy. I just need to learn how to be alone.

    I’m not very good at it yet. 

    Sure, I had people that I was close to at all of my jobs throughout my adult life, but I have no relationship with any of them now. They were what I call, “work friends”. Our common ground was work, and maybe a television series here and there. There was really nothing to sustain these relationships.

    On the other hand, I have friends I have known for more than 20 years due to our shared love of writing, reading and a myriad of other things that began with those two. Throughout the years of this mind numbing job or that stressful, yet unfulfilling career choice, these friends have provided light, and distraction, and grounding in what was truly important to me. 

    So now the joy I am finding in my solitude workday is that the Beatles were right and I am getting by with a little help from my friends. I am enjoying daily support and strength from my friends. I have turned to certain blogs for advice and discovered an amazing sense of community. I revel in these communities where people are willing to provide road maps to get where they are, instead of hoarding industry secrets for fear of someone beating them out. 

    I have discovered that I am never really alone in this beautiful, creative and challenging world of publishing. 

    And I’m thrilled that this is my life.


  • Grateful

    Let me start off by saying that I am very aware of my own failures. I encourage all to be aware of their faults…embrace them…and move forward. I picked a terrible month to attempt my blog a day challenge. I could have cheated and done blogs ahead of time, in fact that is what I would encourage my clients to do if they were going to be away – write blogs in advance and have them on a timer to self publish. But the point of my plan was to write a blog every day. Only it’s December and my girls came up from Miami and my son is home after finishing school and the time with them trumps my well-laid plans. So I missed a couple of days, and now I’m back.

    Moving on.

    My Photo-A-Day Challenge for today was Grateful. There are so many things that could fit the bill for that word for me. I am grateful that I made a decision to start DRE&MS this year. I’m grateful for how clearly the vision came to me as to what the company would do and be. I took time this summer and put together a website and a business plan and I anticipated a day when I would be able to quit my job and run my business full time.

    I am grateful that my position was eliminated where I worked and that I was crazy brave enough to walk away from what they offered me to instead devote myself full time to living my dream. It was a scary 24-hour period when my husband and I looked at our options and he helped me decide to try.

    I am immensely grateful that I married a man who has always believed in me more than I believe in myself. Things have been tough but he encourages me daily to keep going. I am grateful that January holds big things and all of his beliefs will be justified (not that he’s ever asked for justification, he’s just believed).

    I am grateful for the very talented people who have come my way as clients and who make my job a joy each day. I am grateful that there are so many who are trusting me to help them and allowing me to play a part in the big things that are ahead for them.

    And while all of this makes my life something to be grateful for, the thing I am most grateful for is what you see in the picture above. I’m grateful for the life Caitlin has created in Miami and what I believe the future has in store for her. I am grateful that Kelsey graduated school in May, moved down to live with her sister (truly grateful that they like each other enough to live together), found a job in her major and taken huge steps into being a grown up. I am grateful Jason finished school in November (yes, seriously, all three children done with college – Woo-Hoo!!!). I am grateful that he is looking to a future intelligently and trying to make plans that will make the most of what he can do and make him happy. Mostly, I am grateful that they have grown to be people I enjoy being around.

    Take a minute today and figure out what you are grateful for. Share below, I’d love to know about the good things in your life. People love to share things that make them angry or sad, let’s share the good stuff. What are you grateful for?

  • My Favorite Traditions

    I woke up this morning and the first thing I realized as I lay in bed was that somehow yesterday got away from me without me posting my Photo-A-Day Challenge or my Blog. I hadn’t even sat up yet when I started beating myself up over this. I mean, I had managed to go every day for 22 days! Typically this would be when I slowly (or not so slowly) fall out of the habit as I realize I failed and I probably can’t keep up anyways…

    No. Not this time. I will take care of yesterdays now and will find time in my crazy Sunday to write today’s. I will not beat myself up and I will not quit. One day of failure does not equal failure. That is my lesson for today. That is what I will take away and I will move forward.

    Perhaps part of the reason yesterday fell was that it was a tough word for my photo of the day. The word was tradition. My first thought was, how do I get a picture of tradition. Then I went to what traditions do I have now? Over the years there have been many. As a child the tradition my brother and perpetrated most forcefully was that we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. Somehow, as much as I loved that as a child, I never brought that one to my children.

    For years after we married, the most important to me – which could sometimes drive my husband crazy – was that on Christmas morning the tree would be covered with candy canes. Unfortunately since they weren’t needed until Christmas Eve, I would usually forget about them until a day or two before I needed them and then they weren’t always so easy to find. (BTW-don’t tell my children this one, I’m fairly certain they still think Santa takes care of this…even if they are in their twenties. Well I guess we’ll see if they read my blog now that this secret is out).

    I also bought the children pajamas every year for Christmas. For whatever reason I convinced myself this was a tradition. Now it seems a little weird for some strange reason, and that has fallen by the wayside.

    Most recent traditions are only about three years old. We’ve been sharing Christmas Eve dinner with very dear friends. We take turns cooking (my turn this year) and we just laugh a lot and enjoy each others company. Christmas morning the five of us make Beignets (I buy Café du Monde mix in New Orleans) open gifts, and then family comes over for brunch and then we’re done. We’ve even started going to a movie on Christmas Day as a family. I love the simplicity of our day.

    Wait! I have figured it out. My tradition is that I have my family in one place and the five of us simply enjoy each other!

    Best tradition ever!

  • Other People's Words

    I had great plans on writing about adaptability. I was going to start with a cute story about my tree topper which I made many years ago. I would share how much I love it and tell you how when I got a new, artificial tree two years ago my topper wouldn’t fit. How I set her next to the tree for the past two years, but how this year – in a fit of anger or frustration or desire to avoid work by stressing over my topper – I went and found yarn and tied the darn girl on the top of the tree.

    Only I realized I simply wanted to tell that story and have nothing to say on adaptability. There is no brilliant  idea within me to tie my tree topper in any way with writing. Believe me, I have tried. Nothing there.

    Instead, in my lack of brilliance, I have decided to share some great quotes I discovered online today about writing that say much more than I could come up with today.

     “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau

    “The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway

     “Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ― Mark Twain

    “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ― Stephen King, On Writing

    “Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.” ― Virginia Woolf

     “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

    Share below if you have a favorite quote on writing. Maybe I’ll use it the next time I’m stumped on what to write about.

  • For the Love of It All

    I used to sew. Strange thing was that the entire time I worked on a project I would fuss and cuss and basically just grumble my way through the job. I would yell at my sewing machine as the tension gave me fits. I would cry to my husband when every muscle in my body ached from sitting on the floor cutting fabrics. I would complain about every time the pieces didn’t quite fit together the way they should. Then I would finish and would hold up some pretty little dress I made for #1 daughter beaming and say, “isn’t this beautiful?”

    This weekend I performed in my first weekend of a two-weekend run of The Desk Set. The rehearsal period has been long. There were times I didn’t think I’d make it to Opening Night. I have come home on more than one occasion to complain to my DH. I have sat over drinks on my Saturday Pub Nights with friends, asking advice, telling them my concerns and just basically grumbling my way through. This is not typical of me while working on a show and just being this full of negative feelings was frustrating to me beyond measure. Then we opened. And the first scene came off the best we’d ever done it, and the audience laughed at lines we hadn’t even realized were funny, and by the end of the night I was remembering just why I love doing theater.

    My children all played volleyball, and some matches could make them anxious and put incredible pressure on them and at those times my DH loved to look at them and say, “Remember why you play. You do it because you love it and there’s nothing you would rather be doing.”

    Over the years I have heard several writer friends tell me the struggles they go through writing. One friend shared a story of getting all the way to the end of a manuscript, with her editor waiting for it in a matter of days, and being so unhappy with what she had written that she deleted the entire book so she’d be forced to start fresh. Other friends tell me that every book they are working on is the worst thing they have ever done, and then when finished, it’s their favorite work to date.

    It’s important to remind yourself that you know what you’re doing and the end will justify the craziness. It is equally as important to have trusted family and friends who can talk you off the ledge when you don’t think you’ll make it to the end.

    Remember why write. You do it because you love it and because there’s nothing you would rather be doing.

  • We Never Really Know.

    Last weekend I watched The Princess Bride for probably the millionth time. It’s a favorite of ours and I was drawn in as if it was the very first time. I turned to my brother and asked, “Do you think they had any idea when they made this movie that it would be this big? That people would be walking around saying, ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoyo. You killed my father. Prepare to die,’ more than 25 years later?”

    We look at our babies when we first bring them home and we dream of what they will be when they grow up. We try to picture what they will look like, where they might live, and what the future holds for them, but we don’t know.

    I feel immense sorrow today, as I think of the families touched by yesterday’s senseless tragedy. I know no one ever thinks anything as horrific as that will touch them personally. I will not even begin to try to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.

    All I can say is that we never know. Knowing everything might change the way we walk this earth. The only thing we can do is live life today, and be the best people we can be and hope to touch the lives of those around us. No one knows.

    I was asked for my favorite Christmas Song today in my Photo-A-Day Challenge and there was no hesitation. This song has long touched my heart and today it fills it with even at the highest level of understanding, sometimes we just don’t know. And that’s often for the better.

     

    "Mary Did You Know"

    (originally by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene) 

    Mary, did you know

    that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

    Mary, did you know

    that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

    Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?

    This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

     

    Mary, did you know

    that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

    Mary, did you know

    that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?

    Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?

    When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

     

    Mary did you know..

     

    The blind will see.

    The deaf will hear.

    The dead will live again.

    The lame will leap.

    The dumb will speak

    The praises of The Lamb.

     

    Mary, did you know

    that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

    Mary, did you know

    that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

    Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?

    The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.

     

  • A Lost Art

    I wrote recently about my Grandmother in honor of her 100th birthday. Since being down in Florida with my family last week, I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. I think of all the changes that have happened in the world during her 100 years and I am certain I can tell you what I believe she would tell you is one of the most negative. There is an art slowly eroding away and she would tell you it is a terrible shame.

    Betty Davis is a letter writer. She loves a hand written note more than just about anything and writes cards, thank you notes, and personal letters on a fairly regular basis. I remember growing up with my wonderful parents who forced encouraged my brother and I to write thank you notes for every gift we ever received. The thing about my Grandmother is that she would then respond to your thank you letter in hopes that we would respond to her, and so on and so on…

    I dreaded writing thank you letters when I was growing up. There was my Mom on Christmas morning with her pad of paper, “who was that from?” she would ask as we were unwrapping our gifts (very carefully, you’ll remember if you read my wrapping blog recently). My brother and I would stall, ignore, and whine as long as we could before we would sit down and write those dreaded letters. And sure enough, within a couple weeks there would be a letter back from Grandma.

    Then when I got to college, I wrote weekly letters home to my parents. In addition, I became a Greeting Card whore. I would spend time going through racks and racks reading every card and buying them for sometime I might have the appropriate reason to send them with a note of encouragement, or some humor to bring a smile to a friend.

    Next came the internet (yes, I know I’m old) and email took over. It was easy to just send out an email and not have to deal with the trip to the post office and the cost of stamps. Letters became passé. Still every year Grandma got her thank you note (let’s just say she has not been quick to embrace the computer generation) and every year she sent one back.

    To me the really funny thing is that now even emails are too much for most people. Now it’s all texts and social media messaging. Our thoughts edited down to as few characters as possible. No more trying to decipher the curlicues of someone’s handwriting, now we are trying to read their abbreviations and understand what they mean.

    Sadly, I don’t think all these changes are really progress. I think there is an art to writing letters and too many people are now incapable of it. I mean seriously, they don’t even think we need to teach cursive writing in schools anymore. The loss of that which once drove me crazy, now makes me a little sad.

    I recently found a box full of letters from my past, letters from friends and boys and family, and reading through them I was awash in warm feelings. These handwritten pieces touched my heart and took me back.

    To all you writers out there, take this as a challenge. As you prepare for your holiday take a little time to share your gift with those you love. Sit down with paper and pen and write something on pretty paper to the people you love sharing anything – let them know what you are thinking of them, what they mean to you, recount a memory you shared, just take the time to focus and write. Could just be the best gifts you give.

    Not just that, I think it would make Betty Davis very happy. 

  • Pros and Cons of Working at Home

    Everybody thinks that it would be amazing to be your own boss and work at home – and in some ways they are correct – but there are some definitive negatives.

    1. Without incredible self-motivation, it is easy to slip into slacking off. You have to be able to get up and get to work like you would with any job, or you will slowly be starting later and later or leaving on a whim. You don’t get to work, you don’t get paid.
    2. There are no co-workers to bounce ideas off of, talk about weekend adventures, or exchange opinions on last night’s football game or American Horror episode. If you aren’t careful when you work at home you can easily fall into loneliness and isolation. Make a concerted effort to meet a friend for lunch once a month, join a choir at church or a community theater group – anything to give you the personal interactions you need to make up for what’s lacking from your work day.
    3. My son came home from college a few weeks ago. He’s been looking for work, but is home while doing so. There are school holidays or conference days that suddenly give you extra bodies in the house. When you have created a work habit on how you get through your day of work, any one asking, “What do we have for lunch?” or “Since you’re home, can you run me to the mall?” can really wreak havoc with your day.
    4. Distractions – Personal phone calls, home projects that you used to be able to avoid while at work but which are now staring you down, the dog who used to stay home alone all day with no problem but who now seems to want to go outside every hour or so, all these things rob you of work time if you allow it.
    5. When I went to work every day, I would spend a good amount of time checking the time, calculating when I could go home. Now I’m at home and there is no definitive time frame to my day. Work has to get done in order to get paid. I often find myself opening my computer back up in the evenings, while my family watches television around me, to put in another hour or two. I don’t travel on any trips without packing my work up to go with me. You stop counting hours and start counting completed tasks. At least at the beginning you have to know that your work will most likely not fit in a 40-hour workweek.

    Having said all of that, for me, the pluses are amazing as well,

    1. I’m doing my dream job, working with people I am truly enjoying and knowing that my skills are being appreciated.
    2. When my Grandmother just turned 100 in December, I didn’t have to go convince any boss that they needed to give me time off during the hectic holiday season. I DID have to pack up my work and make time to get things done, but it was on my terms.
    3. When I finish a project, the work is mine. I don’t run the risk of office politics or people claiming my work product as their own. My successes are mine and that feels great, and my failures are mine as well, but I can grow from them and learn by making them work.
    4. No one cares if I spend all day in my sweats and the big comfy sweater that’s not allowed out of the house, see picture below (Just kidding! If it’s not allowed out of the house, why do you think I’d allow myself to be photographed in it? Seriously.)
    5. I get to sit next to my cats and pup and listen to the music I like and sing at the top of my lungs and no one cares. Well there’s no one here to care, but still….

    Yes, there are pros and cons to working at home and it’s not for everyone, but weigh them all out and figure out what is best for you

  • Step Out

    My youngest daughter has always loved music…in private. She would stay in her room for hours when she was young and listen to a song over and over and over until she knew every word in it. She would record herself sometimes and every once in a while I would get to hear her sing if I opened the door to her room unexpectedly. She has a beautiful voice, but totally lacked the confidence to let anybody hear her. She might sing with a group of volleyball teammates to a song on the radio, but absolutely refused when those same teammates would ask her to sing the National Anthem or ask her to represent her team at a talent show.

    So you can imagine my surprise when after merely two weeks after going to spend the summer with her sister in Miami, I received a phone call telling me she was singing Karaoke with a bunch of my friends down there. Even more, now a year and a half later when I discover not only is she singing in competitions but making it through to the final rounds and invited back on different occasions. To see how far she has stepped outside of her comfort zone amazes me on a daily basis.

    Sometimes our best comes out of us when we step outside of our comfort zone and try something we never thought we could do. Maybe you tend to be a little shy and you need to walk into an industry event and commit to networking to help build your career. Perhaps you’ve only ever written novellas and you know that you need to try writing a full-length manuscript. Don’t let fear keep you from doing anything that might help you to become the best you that you can be.

    Share in the comments below areas where you could benefit by stepping out of your box.

  • Where Do You Want To Be?

    I have wanted to move to Miami for more than five years now. First we couldn’t do it because the kids were still in school in this area. Second, of course, came the, “we have jobs here,” reason for not going. Finally, it’s the, “as soon as we have enough money and a place to live.” What it all boils down to is it’s not going to happen yet. But it doesn’t keep me from believing that it will. And checking the temperature on a regular basis.

    For as long as I can remember I have wanted to work in the publishing industry. I have written. I reviewed books for Romantic Times Magazine. I edited for a start up for a brief time. I have worked with an author friend for years, editing her books before they went out to her editor. All of this happening while working a myriad of “pay the bill” jobs. If you read yesterday’s blog, you know that this changed recently when I turned to working with authors full time. Now I’m looking for ways to grow this little business to be what I know it can be.

    The point is that wherever we are, there is always somewhere else we want to be. If you are just starting out in writing, you want to be a published author. If you’ve been published you want to see your name on some list or another. When you’ve made a list, you want your numbers to be higher than…whoever it is whose numbers you want to beat.

    The point is that where we want to be is always a moving target. I’ll be happy when I get to Miami. But then I might discover a part of the city I like more than the one I’ve moved to. And my business is off to a great start, but I would really like to double my Facebook likes by the end of the year and have picked up two new clients. I can be happy where I am and still see that next blip just ahead that I want to reach.

    Are you where you want to be? Have you figured out what it will take to get there? Share some of your plans here – your map becomes a little more definitive when you share the route with others.

  • Finding Joy

    My husband is a good man. We have been married more than 26 years now, we have raised three children who have all finished college and are starting their own lives. He has supported our family in a few different jobs through our life together, followed the children around the country with me while they played volleyball, now follows me around while I participate in community theater, helping out building sets or whatever else needs doing. He works hard.

    For Christmas last year, my oldest truly enjoyed the “giving” part of Christmas. Her gifts were thoughtful and wonderful. Her gift for him was amazing. She found a Groupon for the Mario Andretti Experience. He would go to Miami Homestead Speedway for an afternoon and get to drive an Indy car. He has loved racing forever. Once, when we were dating he told me his dream job would be working a pit crew. Getting the opportunity to be trackside, dressed in the racing suit, he looked like a little boy. He was so excited. The joy stayed with him that whole day and even now, he’ll tell people about it and that same look will come over his face.

    I envied that joy. It was so complete. So real.

    Then I lost my job. It wasn’t a great job, but I worked with great people, took pride in what I did, and planned on working there until I was sure that I could make enough money doing something I really wanted to do. Then one day I was told my position was being eliminated, and there was a severance package available. Maybe this was my chance to find my joy.

    It’s been scary. There are days I think I’m crazy, but overall I know that I have found what can make me joyous. I know every day that happiness is in my own hands and I am excited about what lies ahead.

    What makes you joyous? You may be like my husband and get that one day that brings you joy every time you think of it, or, like me, stepping out into the scary unknown, knowing that the end result could be the joy that you have sought for so long.

    What would your joyous picture look like?

  • Unexpected Inspiration

    It’s funny what speaks to you. I pulled up my Photo-A-Day list for today and saw, “red.” OK. That could be many different things.

    I sat working all day and every once and a while the photo task would cross my mind and I would think, “Oh, my Kindle cover is red. Maybe I could do that,” or “If I could figure out how to get a picture of Taylor Swift’s new album, Red, I could write about putting together character playlists.” (Sorry, you’re going to have to wait for that one, now!) Work a little more, think, “Hey, maybe I can get my Christmas tree up and get a picture of the little red heart ornaments we bought for our first Christmas.”

    Ugh!

    All day long this went on, and nothing came to me. When my dear husband got home from work – exhausted – I asked him if he’d take me to the mall and walk around with me a little while to see what might strike me creatively (and, truth be told, to just get me out for a little bit). Not only did he say yes, but my son, recently home from college, said he wanted to go as well.

    As the three of us began walking the relatively large mall, I started taking random pictures of window displays, hanging ornaments, Christmas trees with big red presents, anything red I could find. Along the way we shopped for gifts we needed to get before going to see family this weekend. My men were great troopers, and it was fun being out, but while I snapped away, nothing made me excited.

    Finally, I had one more store I wanted to go to before we left so the guys decided we should get food before going there. We walked over to the food court, picked what we wanted and sat down together…at a table…the three of us. Talking, laughing, planning, just enjoying being together. As the guys started talking about something (it must have been sports, or cars, or printing presses, because I tuned it out), I looked down at the remnants of our dinner and the red jumped out at me. All the beautiful things I’d taken pictures of were gone as I looked at the tray and drink and little ketchup cups and I thought, “now that’s a red with meaning.”

    It just reminded me that you never know where inspiration will come from, and all you can do is be open to it. Don’t miss the little things while you are looking for the big ones. Sometimes it’s the pictures of ketchup you prefer to the beautifully wrapped gifts.

  • The View from My Perfect Workspace

    I am doing a Photo-a-Day Challenge that my daughter recently posted on Facebook – because I thought it would be fun to add one more crazy activity to my day – and today's photo was supposed to be “Your view today.” So I shot the picture you see above. Then I realized that my photo of the day was giving me the basis for the first of my daily blogs for my self named DeBloWriMo.

    What should be said is that is pretty much my view everyday since I started working full time on DRE&MS. I could have turned to the right and shot the picture instead, but that would have shown you the piles of dishes I have been avoiding doing. I choose to look ahead at my warm little corner full of memories of friends and conferences and shots I probably shouldn’t have taken. While sitting with this lovely view, I’ve been reading about setting up a good work environment…and I am apparently doing it all wrong.

    1. Don’t mix your living area and your working area – OK. That’s all fine and dandy, if you have an abundance of space, but alas, I do not. Nor do most of my friends who are in the same boat. And to be perfectly honest, I’m so thrilled to be following my dream that I’m happy for the space I have. 
    2. Always write in the same place – I so disagree with this one. Some days I can sit in my living room and work for hours without even noticing the time speeding by. Other days, I barely open my computer before something else draws my attention. Those days (this morning for example) I pack up my laptop and head out. A cup of coffee at Bruegger’s this morning got me through a project I was fighting to finish at home.
    3. Avoid Distractions – Seriously? Is that even possible?
    4. Office furniture with plenty of space is extremely important – I have a perfect set up. I sit on my love seat with my beloved pup usually sleeping next to me. I will admit I am not in love with this love seat and I do spend a little time every couple days checking out Craigs List to see if I can find a replacement, but it works for now. As to work surface, I found a desk I wanted at IKEA and it took me about two years to actually go and get it, but it’s love! And not at all what the experts say you should have.

     

    Ultimately, in my opinion, all these articles I’ve looked at have missed the whole point. It comes down very simply to this – Are you happy? Are you getting your work done? If you can answer those questions with a yes, than you are in your ideal space. If not, figure out what is missing and fix it. If you are happy and comfortable then you have found your perfect workspace and you can enjoy your view for the day.

    Tell me about your workspace in the comments area below.

  • Give Thanks

    I’ve watched a good number of my friends spend this month posting daily things that they are thankful for. With everything going on in my life lately, I didn’t take up this challenge, but thought as November comes to a close I would take one of my blogs to share a few things I am truly thankful for.

    First off – and who would have ever thought I’d be saying this – I’m thankful that I lost my full time job at the end of September. I started DRE&MS in July hoping that it would grow into a business that allowed me to leave my full time job and make a career doing what I love. The problem was that what DRE&MS requires of me is full time work, so it was hard to give it the attention it demanded and deserved while still working. Then – poof – my job was gone. With a severance, no less, that allowed me to put my time in to where my heart was.

    And I’m beginning to see it working. There are clients. Really talented writers that I’m enjoying working with. There are books that I can’t wait to see in print, knowing that I have a tiny piece in what they have become. I’m excited to work every day, which is a big change from where I was. And none of this would be happening right now if they hadn’t eliminated my position at the end of September.

    I am thankful for the encouragement of family and friends. This could have been a very scary and ugly time in my life if it weren’t for all the people in my corner telling me time and again that I can do it. Reminding me often that my company is the right job at just the right time and that I am the right person to do it, keeps me going every day. My husband, children and parents encourage me daily. And good friends like, Heather Graham who say I can easily do for others what I have done for her for years, keep positive energy flowing around me. How can I not succeed with so many great people around me.

    Lastly, I’m thankful that people are finding me. I’m thankful for the people that take the time to read what I write, who visit my website for my blogs and stick around to check out what else I have to offer, and for those who go to my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/Dremservices) and “Like” it and share my daily tips. I know that I can do anything as long as I have so many good people along with me for the ride.

    I have high hopes for the future, but right now I’m thankful for today and for the fact that DRE&MS can succeed! 

  • Rejection Sucks - But You Can Survive It!

    I have always had a passion for theater, singing and writing. My father liked to describe it as my love of doing a myriad of things that will never pay. I prefer to think of it an amazing ability to be rejected a million times in my lifetime. And this love gives me great authority to speak on how to deal with rejection.

    Recently I auditioned for a show. I was so excited. I felt great during the first reading and then received a burst of adrenaline when I was asked to stick around. I waited for several hours, reading through the script, feeling my soul fill as talented actors enjoying each other and having fun surrounded me. One by one they were called in for a second reading until it was only two other women and myself. The second reading felt as good as the first. I left there flying high, I felt amazing just remembering how much I love good theater. Went to bed dreaming of the hours I could be spending in the months ahead working my craft with these people I had enjoyed so much the night before.

    I woke up to the thanks-but-no-thanks email. Honestly it was much nicer than that, but ultimately it’s what it was. All the nice words couldn’t negate the fact that I wasn’t what they wanted—wasn’t good enough. Doesn’t matter that maybe they were looking for a family of tall blondes and I’m on the shorter side with black hair. I must not have made good eye contact, I didn’t have the accent down that they wanted. All that I could see was the no.

    Rejection is a part of the life I have chosen and if you hope to make it as an author, it’s most likely a part of yours as well. Best to figure out as soon as you can how you are going to handle it.

    I have a five-step process:

    1. Be hurt, or angry, or frustrated, or whatever it is you feel. It’s normal. It’s human and ultimately it’s genuine feeling that will at some point enhance your craft (at least that’s what I tell myself while I cry a little, complain a little and enjoy some wine and chocolate)
    2. Sit down and write a scathing, nasty letter and tell that agent or editor how stupid they are for not recognizing the brilliance that is your writing. Then tear up said letter…into tiny pieces…then burn those pieces…then get the ashes of those pieces and send them off in the wind to the four corners of the earth. Then sit down and write another letter thanking the agent or editor for their time and consideration. Mail this one.
    3. Realize that there are different “no’s.” Discern which “no” you can learn from and which one is out of your control. If you can fix something, fix it. If you can’t, there might be nothing wrong. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea. Send it out to someone else. Ultimately it’s not personal. It’s not about you; it’s about the book.
    4. Create a Success File to be kept in the drawer right next to your rejections (don’t even pretend you don’t save your rejections!). This should have copies of any positive feedback you have ever received. Letters from people who have read your work. Posts on Facebook printed up. Awards from your Third Grade Spelling Class. Anything you have that you can pull out and look through when the rejections are a little overwhelming.
    5. Move on. Send your work out again. Keep writing new projects. Just keep plugging away. Now is the time to remember that you write because you love to. It’s in you and it’s really all there is that you want to do. And because you can’t really predict what it is they want anyways, just do you. Be you and keep sending out the very best you have to offer and before you know it, you are going to be exactly what someone is looking for.
  • Creating Your Own Starting Line

    There’s a great new commercial for Carmax that has people talking about buying or selling a car and they say, “I just don’t know how to get started” at which point a magic white line with the word “Start” appears and leads them right where they need to be.

    I love this commercial. As I’ve been making some major changes in my life lately, I look everyday for my white line. The glorious route marker that will take me exactly where I need to be at precisely the right moment. I want to know that there is someone else out there who will tell me the perfect path to success.

    Only there isn’t one.

    And if someone is offering you one, they’re lying.

    Your path to success is yours to find, just like mine is mine. I’m certain that there will be some wrong turns along the way.

    It’s worth mapping to make sure I don’t accidently follow those bad starts again, but my map won’t get you to your path. You might be able to use it to figure out how to make a map of your own, but no two paths will be exactly alike.

    So my advice is figure out where you want to end up, maybe think of a couple stops you might like to be on your way and then you get to figure out how you get there. Don’t worry about the bad turns, some of the best places I’ve been in life I’ve gotten to accidently.

    Don’t be afraid of the journey. It’s really the best part.

  • Be Open to Change

    When I created this blog I entitled it, What I’ve Learned, and thought I’d be sharing tips on use of language, grammar issues, innovative marketing techniques and things of the like. Instead it seems to have taken itself over and truly wants me to examine what I am learning on this journey as I begin to traverse this new business endeavor.

    I started DRE&MS as a way of taking my skill set to an area I’m passionate about and hopefully make a living doing something I love. I’ve edited for years within writers groups, for friends and authors I know, and even at the most basic level for my children and in several other jobs I’ve had. I did my research, studied other similar businesses, figured out what I liked and what I didn’t, and thought I knew what my business would be.

    Then, an author contacted me last week about work. What she was asking for was most like what I had in my brain and yet nothing like what I had on paper (or the mysterious web-world-like equivalent of paper). She explained to me that she was looking for a critique partner, but truth be told, had no time in her very busy world to reciprocate. She needed someone who could read her work, chapter by chapter, and do a really tough edit; let her know what works and what doesn’t, offer suggestions to make things better and fact check, as necessary.

    I read her email and it was like the clouds had parted, the band played, the angels sang and the gates of Heaven opened. This was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

    Add to this the changing world of publishing. Like all businesses, cuts have had an affect on the world of publishing, as there are less people there to catch errors or work closely with authors. And as more and more authors are self-publishing online a lot of little details are falling between the cracks.  Now – more than ever – authors need to have someone they can trust going through their work and catching things they miss and cleaning up the little things that escape notice.

    I spent last weekend going back and forth with this author about what she wanted, what I could do, what it would cost, and what the working relationship would really look like. I realized that what she wanted could be cost prohibitive unless we came up with an innovative way of defining this service.  

    Writers tend to write in bursts. If I charged by the chapter in a way that is fair to both myself and the author, there would be some months where the cost would be very high and then months when there would be little or nothing. As we talked more and more about this, a germ of an idea began to grow. What if I worked on a retainer system? What if I had an annual contract with an author that they would pay me a monthly fee and I would critique everything they wrote in that year? We would figure out how much they typically write in a year and base the monthly fee on that.

    So, What I’ve Learned is to be adaptable. All of a sudden, I’m excited again. I was thrilled when I started the DRE&MS website, but this author has lit a fire inside of me as I realize that what is most needed and what I love and do well can all come together in a new and exciting way.

    I know there are more of you out there who need a critique partner on a regular basis, but simply do not have the time to be one in return. And that’s OK. Your job is to grow your business. My job is to try and make that easier. Get in touch with me and see what I can do.

  • Things I've Learned at the Beginning

    The first inkling of a thought about this business venture came to me a little more than a year ago. The only thing is I was pitching it to someone else.

    My younger daughter, Kelsey, was just finishing her junior year at Mercyhurst University working on a degree in Communications. I had just attended RT Booklovers Convention and I saw a growing need for authors to get assistance on so many levels. I thought that this could be a great way for Kelsey to use the Marketing and Advertising she was enjoying so much. We talked about it for a while, and at one point I remember saying, let me know if you aren’t interested in this, because I just may have to do it myself.

    As time has moved on, that little idea began to grow.

    I know what my strengths are and what I love to do. I have always found joy in helping others become the best they can be. I would often say that I enjoy taking on the tasks that keep others from doing their job. I’ve edited for Heather Graham for several years now, often working against very tough deadlines, and find I typically sign off of phone calls by saying, “if there’s anything else you need me to do for you, just ask.” I am at my happiest when I know that the work I do helps someone like Heather get some truly amazing books out for others to enjoy. Whether it was editing, or setting up Social Media networks for her, I knew my work helped free her up to do her work.

    This was what I was made to do. I spent ten years reviewing novels, a brief time with a small publishing house and years working with Heather. I know that I have skills that I bring to the table that will help a lot of people move their own careers along. I know how to do the job I want to do. What I needed to learn was how to get it started as a business.

    And this was scary.

    It’s so easy to talk. It’s easy to recognize a good idea. It’s easy to dream of doing what you love instead of actually putting yourself out there and doing it. It’s hard to take that first step; to put yourself out there on the market not knowing what the future holds.

    I titled this blog, Things I’ve Learned. I picture it as a place that I can share things I learn or have learned that I think might be useful to visitors to my site. Whether it’s writing tips, marketing ideas, or time saving tricks. I hope that friends might occasionally make an appearance and share the things they’ve learned, too. Today I can tell you that the most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s never too late to start. And that great reward cannot come if we don’t first put ourselves out there and take a risk.

    So now, it’s my time. My plan for Kelsey has become my new life…and I’m putting her to work as well. I’m excited, and anxious and scared, but I know that I can do great things for the people who choose to take the same type of risk for themselves, but know they need a little help to get where they want to be.

    I’ve learned that DRE&MS can become reality.