On Flying

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For many years, I refused to fly. Yes. I’m one of those people. Flying is something I dread. Fear, actually. Oh, let’s face it. Here’s the truth. Every time I get on a plane, I assume I’m going to die.

For as many years as I’ve been afraid of flying, people have laughed at me and said, “Why?” or “Oh, I LOVE flying!” or the good old standard, “More people die in car accidents than in plane crashes!”

None of these quips are a comfort to me. You might as well be talking to a liberal democrat, saying, “No, seriously. Right wing republicans have some good points!” Neither those democrats nor me, in regard to flying, are going to just stop, and say, “Oh. Okay! I hadn’t thought of that.”

Back to that deep soul wrenching thought I might die… today by the way… I’m getting on a plane to Paris this evening.

Yup. Flying across the ocean. Gulp.

The question begs answering. What if I did… you know… leave this cruel world?

Alas… adieu.

(How morbid! How draconian! Bobby McFerrin would say, “don’t bring everybody down like this.”) Well, hang in there, kids. I’m not just playing at theatrics. I’ve got a point to make.

In the idea I am about to face my demise, here are my parting thoughts. They are streamlined. There are only two things I would credit in my life. God, and my husband. Everything else in my world falls under one of those two categories. Children, family, friends, health, home, experiences, beauty, love. Essentially, God gives me everything, including my husband, and my husband is really the only relationship I need to keep healthy. Everything falls right into place after that.

I’ve got a strong faith and can’t imagine life without it. And I have a very good… the perfect one for me… husband. Really, I don’t think anything else matters. All I ever need to do in this life is to keep those two at the forefront of my mind and all else will be what it will be. That knowledge makes me smile. I’m so glad I have finally become old and wise enough to know these things. And knowing this really does put my mind at ease. That and a nice little pill for relaxing and a glass of wine.

So, fears – I’ll keep facing them.

Delta Airlines? Treat me well. S’il vous plait.

Paris France? Be kind to this American. Merci, beaucoup.

C’est la vie. Au revoir. The next I write will be all about this new land I’m about to meet and friends with whom I’m going to have adventures. Tres Bien.

When Women Roam

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I looked at the date this morning and squealed. I leave for France in 13 days. OMG!

Beverly Teche, a member of my writing group, came home from France to visit last fall. We all talked about how awesome it would be to go visit her in her little French village, Fresnay. Then Dee Schmid said, “I think I’d actually like to go!” (She used to live in France and can speak French.) I said, “I want to go too, but I’m sure I can’t.” “Why not?” Bev asked. And that’s where this ball started rolling.

Why not? Not often do opportunities like this come along. I’m going to get to experience France with one friend who lives there and another who used to live there. Both speak French very well. I’ll have two French-speaking tour guides! It’s sort of a no-brainer.

So, to record this wonderful excursion, Bev, Dee and I will post to a dedicated blog so friends and family can see pictures and read about the places we go. Each of us will add our own thoughts and pictures. I’m looking forward to the writing almost as much as time with friends and the sights, sounds and smells we’ll see.

The blog site is pretty and will be filled with our pictures and thoughts about this grand excursion! The blog is titled, When Women Roam. We each wrote our thoughts on travel. I hope you’ll visit the site! Merci, beaucoup!

Writers Helping Writers

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Last Saturday, my good friend Victorine Lieske and I had the opportunity to speak to the Omaha chapter of the National League of Pen Women. They bought us lunch, we met some very nice women and saw a couple of friends from other writing connections we have. And, as always with writers, we had good conversation and plenty of laughs. You can read all about the history of the National League of American Pen Women at their website: NLAPW.org.

I love speaking at events with Victorine because she’s a writing, marketing, ebook guru known all over the country. She sells books in her sleep! So, it’s pretty cool she lets me come along and share the floor.

I know not to talk about writing or marketing because I’m just a beginner learning the ropes. But I can talk about the importance of critique to work a book and make yourself accountable to your readers. I can also talk about networking.

Here’s what Connie Spittler, the group’s current president, had to say about my portion of the program. “Gina Barlean’s main and best points. As friends, we can give each other free publicity.” It’s a simple premise. Just common sense—one thing this country girl has, at least on occasion. I like to break things down into language we can all embrace. I try to do that in my book, Build a Writing Team. In that book, I talk about networking. It’s a word that can simply translate into, be a friend to each other.

  • I’ll promote you and you promote me.
  • I’ll support you, you support me.
  • I’ll help you and you help me.

Sorry to take the mystery out of it. If you want people to help you out, help them out. If you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them. Let’s combine our talents and see where it takes us.

What I pointed out to the NLPW was that women already have this skill perfected. Those who are successful do this for each other from the time they’re very young. They rally behind each other and build each other up. So I thought it was pretty neat to find out the organization’s original goal was,“mutual aid, advice, and future development” for each other and their careers. 

Interestingly enough, the Nebraska Writers Guild also had women writers of the era—Aldrich, Cather, Sandoz. And their history is quoted to say among their goals was, “…to foster the development of the talent of those who desire to write and who show definite possibilities of authorship.” Similar era, similar women, similar thoughts. Pretty cool, I think. Essentially, they encourage women authors to help each other out, and to support and give advice to other writers.

I guess our foremothers had this networking thing figured out long before we ever did. It’s true. There really is nothing new under the sun. Funny, though, how our world wants to put new names and spins on what the past already knew so well.

Great Blog Posts

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Scatter brained seems to be my mental state as of late. I really don’t know how I juggled life when I was young. I never even had to think about it. Just like I never had to think about dieting or being in shape, or how I would ever get everything done. Nope. Never crossed my mind. I just did it. Now, ooh, la, la… I need lists, and then notes to remind me of where I put my lists!

This leads me to my blog posts. At least 20 times a day I think of awesome ideas for blog posts! Do I remember them when I sit down to actually write the blog? Heavens no. It’s a totally blank page up there in my noggin. Not a clue what that amazing idea I had in the shower was. No recollection of the epiphany I had in church or during a session at conference. So, you, my poor readers, get a half-assed jumble of shinola. Woe is you.

I decided to do some blog reading today in hopes of either remembering or getting a fresh idea for a blog post. I found that other people must still be able to think, so I’m going to share their posts with you. They did a bang up job! I think all of their ideas are well worth reading.

Brian Crouse wrote a wonderful blog about gratitude today. I love to practice gratitude. The older I get, the more lucky I know I am. I like that he considers gratitude a super power.  Suspending Belief

Then I read a post by Charrissa Stastny.  She always sees the bright side and shows us the beauty in the world. She’s the kind of person I want to always be around. I’ve never met her in person, but just reading her blog makes me happy every time! Joy in the Moments

My friend Becky Breed took me back to childhood with this article about road trips. Boy, it was just like being there. Everyone has these kinds of memories. And aren’t memories a kind of trip in themselves?! Write in Community

Carrie Reuben and I have been following each other’s blogs for a few years now. Today she wrote about when writers use big words. She makes me laugh, and think. Both of which do me good. The Write Transition

The other blog post I read this morning was Faith Colbourn’s. She talks about how nurturing each other can actually affect our DNA. I believe it. Kindness is key. Prairie Wind Press

I hope you’ll check out all of these blogs. I read them because I respect these people and I find what they have to say to be intelligent and of value. I think you will, too.

SO MANY THINGS IN MY HEAD!

A few things in the old brain today.

IMG_0306My first thought is about my poor cat, Poppit, who is, quite probably as I type this, having his little testicles removed by the vet. He’s going to be so angry with me when he gets home from the vet. I hope a nice can of cat food will help him forget. Yes. I will be doing my best to pamper a feline later today.

The next thought I’m entertaining is about France. I’m going there in a month. I’m excited. I’m 588px-Regions_de_França.svgnervous. I’m scared. But mostly, I can’t even begin to imagine any of it. I think it’s going to be surreal.  I need to figure out what clothes to take and I must read up on different facts about the country so I’m not completely ignorant. I’m blessed to be going with two friends who both speak French. As long as I keep my mouth shut, I might not embarrass myself too much. Note the words, “might” and “too much.” This leaves some wiggle room.

10374448_10152816308736454_3968303323509060046_nAnother thought is because I’m going to France I’m going to miss my niece’s high school graduation, and that is very sad. Miss Molly is precious to me and it really bites that this trip fell at the same time as her graduation. Both of these things are once in a lifetime events. So, I need ideas for an amazing present for this special girl. I’ll take her out to lunch the week before I leave so I can celebrate her special day.

Last on my mind is the hug-fest I attended last weekend. It was actually a writing conference, but IMG_080311139418_10152833292632143_1179165526800934718_nseriously, these people are like family to me. Yes, I learned things about writing and marketing, but the big bonus was that I reconnected with such incredibly interesting people and met a few new writers I hadn’t known before. I learned some things, too, but really, I feel like the main thing I walked away with is knowing I have found my tribe… my place in the world. I love chatting and learning and laughing with these fine friends of mine. Some of them are older than me, some younger, most smarter, but all of those I call friends touch a very special place in my heart. It doesn’t get too much better than that.

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Tell Me About Your Book

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I hear this all the time:

“Tell me about your book!!”

  • First of all, I’m a writer because I’m not really very good at summing things up quickly. I need about 50,000 words to make a point.
  • Secondly, I’m writer because I don’t really like to talk.
  • Although I have ideas to express, the notion of people looking at me while I express them, makes me panic.
  • But there’s another really good reason it’s difficult for a writer to give a short description about their books. It’s because an author’s book is like their baby.
  • If someone were to ask a parent to sum up everything about their child in a few minutes, the parent would probably have a hard time encapsulating the entire personality and character of their son or daughter.
  • The kind of things a parent or author might say if they were pressed are, “They’re nice! They have a big heart! They’re smart!”
  • But unlike parents of actual children, Authors want you to buy their babies.

So this idea of a book being an author’s baby will help me explain the writing process, which is another question I often hear: “How do you write a book?”

First comes the gestation period which all happens in our minds:

  • The author comes up with the idea for a book.
  • We think about who the characters will be.
  • We come up with the issue the characters will need to solve.
  • We decide where the story will take place.
  • Then, just like giving birth to a baby, we birth our books.
  • The difference is the delivery process is the actual writing the book.
  • When we finish the book, it’s like the first time we hold our new baby. We love it, and stare at it, and think it’s wonderful and amazing, and a miracle.
  • But we don’t really see our baby like other people see it. We love our baby no matter what.
  • But a relative might come over to see the baby and leave thinking, “That’s a funny looking baby!” or “Man, that baby is fussy!” or “I can’t believe they let that baby have a pacifier.”
  • So although you love that baby like only a parent can, you have to step back and raise it properly.
  • It’s the same with a book. We have to see our story through the eyes of many readers to make sure it makes sense.
  • We need to answer questions like, does it flow, is it believable, is it well written and properly formatted, is the cover the best it can be?
  • I’ve learned it takes teamwork to make a great book.
  • Critique groups, and beta readers, editors, and cover designers.
  • When the book can pass all of these stages, just like a young adult passes all of their classes in high school, then the book can then go to college — the editor, then on to the real world — the reading public.

 One important thing I’ve learned is, The time to publish a book is not when it’s done, but when it’s GOOD! I’m still working on making the next book in the Rosewood series good enough to join the real world. Thanks for your patience.

I’m still working on making the next book in the Rosewood series good enough to join the real world. Thanks for your patience.

WHY GO TO WRITING CONFERENCES?

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So a few years ago I was at a writing conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Writing seminars often have sessions about the importance of getting over the typical introverted nature most writers have and getting out to do public speaking gigs.

I have experienced quite a bit of fear when it comes to public speaking, so I raised my hand and asked the speaker, “Do you have any tips about how to relax before a speaking engagement?” The speaker never even got a chance to answer.

Business cards from surrounding classmates were immediately shoved in my face and they began to give me advice.

  • One offered a class in mindfulness
  • another espoused visualization
  • someone else was going on about yoga
  • and the man directly beside me… a life coach, who looked oddly enough like James Coburn was saying, “Do this with me… breath in…hold it…now breath out… long, slow breaths. Again!”

The speaker and I exchanged a little knowing glance, and I thought, “Man. Writers are weird! Wait a minute. I’m a writer!” That’s when I realized I was right where belonged.

That’s when I realized I was right where belonged.

So, assimilation? Is that what conferences do for us? Is this where we meet others of our species? Maybe it’s where we see in the mirror dimly? Or allow others to see who we are… or maybe to see ourselves more clearly.

By the way, if you’re in the area, The Nebraska Writers Guild will be having their spring conference soon. Sign up if you have this little inkling that maybe, you too, are kind of weird! If you are, maybe you’re a writer!

When I Knew

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Every year around spring, I decide I should exercise more. Due to this annual spring epiphany, my husband and I have an outbuilding… a chicken coop, to be exact… full of the fitness machines and good intentions we’ve purchased over the years. In the spring.

Around four years ago, that time of year came, and I again decided to give fitness a chance. (World peace might be more achievable.) So that day, I asked my husband to go out to the coop and get the elliptical machine and bring it to the house for me. Being the good man he is, he did.

So, he put the equipment on the patio as it was covered in dust and cobwebs and I set about cleaning it up. Once clean, it was time to bring it into the house. I thought about calling him, but it was nice of him to do the major heavy lifting. I figured I could surely get it in the house on my own. Couldn’t be that heavy, right?

Turned out, it wasn’t. Nope. Weight wasn’t the issue. Its collapsible construction, however, was. When I grabbed it by the back bar and tilted it toward me it collapsed like an accordion being thrown in its case by a polka band member. Front bar met back bar with a slam… my fingers crunched between the two.

I screamed, and being the big baby I can be sometimes, started bawling like Lucy when Desi told her she had some ‘splainin’ to do. I worked to pry my fingers out of the contraption. Then I jumped around holding my throbbing hands up in the air like if I performed a super-duper dramatic pain dance and cursed loudly, somehow my fingers would be cured.

Of course, it didn’t fix a thing, and when I finally slumped down on the back step all I could do was stare at my waffled fingers and continue to sob. But quite honestly, I wasn’t really crying because my hands hurt, although they did. I was crying because I was dead sure my fingers were all broken and darn it if I wasn’t right in the middle of writing a novel. If my fingers actually were broken, I would never be able to finish typing it!

And, that’s when I knew… I am a writer.  

FYI. Didn’t get fit. Didn’t break my fingers. Finished writing Casting Stones. Made millions. HAHAHA. No. Not really. But hundreds. Absolutely hundreds!

IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE…

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I just returned from speaking at my hometown library. For the most part, it went well. The communication prior to the event was excellent. They had a special parking place for me, which I thought was very professional. The director of the library introduced me, which I truly appreciated. The library did an excellent job of promoting the event, and they had a nice crowd gathered. I felt welcomed, and many audience members came up afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation and what a good job I did. I sold quite a few books, too, so that was lovely! All in all, it really was a great experience.

But…

Doesn’t there always seem to be a “but” somewhere? Why is that? I suppose because I put it there. I could focus on the 99% that went right. But I hit a snag with one thing that blemished the experience. One cranky woman, a tactless person, who felt it was her job to correct me. Between the people purchasing my books, and those telling me how much they enjoyed my speech, one persnickety woman, with the mindset her job is to make sure people don’t feel too good about themselves, told me, loudly, that I used incorrect tenses in a sentence on one of the slides in my presentation. She also made it clear she didn’t like the cover of my next book.

Several people around commented about how rude she was (after she left because quite frankly, I think most of us were frightened by her!). Honestly, I thought it was kind of humorous. She clearly had to make others feel wrong, to make sure people knew she was right. Insecurity is an ugly thing.

And yet, here I am having a little rant about how rude some people can be. Truth be told, she was right about the grammar. One of my power point slides had these words: “An author’s book is their baby.” You probably see the error. “Author” is singular and “their” is plural. I should have written, “An author’s book is her baby.” Grammar isn’t my wheelhouse. I’m a creative type, focused on the bigger picture. It’s why I pay a professional editor before I ever publish a book. As far as her opinion about the cover of my book not being attractive, it’s her opinion. Everybody has one. Did she need to share it? No. Do I care? Well, regarding the grammar issue, yes. It’s good for me to remember I’m always being judged whether I like it or not. Was it polite? Kind? Good manners? Uh… no.

What did Mamma use to say? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I think sometimes when we criticize, the dirt we sling at others lands on our own face. But hey, I smiled and said, “thanks for the comment.” My face is clean! Food for thought for those who feel that need to correct others. Manners make the world a nicer place.

And now that I got that off my chest, I can focus on what a nice opportunity the library gave me to promote my books!

The Best Intentions

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It’s said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This type of saying is called an aphorism– a pithy observation that contains a general truth. Another example would be, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Every week I say I’m going to do a blog post here. Every day, many times a day, ideas pop into my head about potential blog topics. Truly, my road is well paved. I’m this way with ideas for meals to make, rooms to clean, cards to send, and exercises to do. Spring and summer are just around the proverbial corner, so soon I’ll be intending to weed, water, mow, plant, paint, and Lord knows what else.

And yet. I haven’t done any of these things of which I intend to do. I feel like I need to do some kind of penance. Bless me reader for I have neglected my blog. It has been three weeks since my last entry.

In the same way, I intend to work on the book I’m writing. I intend to flesh out an outline for a new story floating around in my brain. And always amidst the things I intend to do, I humor the idea of doing dishes, vacuuming the rugs, sweeping and washing the floors and doing the laundry. Guess what usually wins. Facebook. Email. Texting. Reading. And now that I’m up early in the mornings and off to work, when I get home, napping has become the forbidden fruit I can’t seem to deny myself.

I guess I’ll have to admit it. I’m a procrastinator. I don’t think I used to be, but I don’t remember being so doggone tired all the time. My eyelids must be weighted. They insist on closing. And with bleary eyes comes a foggy brain. Once again, my intention was to write a great little post full of pithy observations, and the most I can conclude is, I’m a neglectful and tired, procrastinating writer. Luckily, there is this nicely paved road in front of me. I hope it leads to a couch so I can nap.