How not to sell a book.

As an author I have the terrific opportunity to meet other authors, writers, and artists. I love sharing notes on my phase of development in my writings and to hear others’ processes too. One of my favorite things to do is to buy books at events and have the authors sign their treasured works. I recently found myself in the situation where I was interested in buying a couple of books from an author and then changed my mind. The author really made it hard for me to support him and I’ll tell you why.

The author not only began telling me about his process, he basically steamrolled me and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He kept talking and talking. Whenever I did open my mouth to speak, I noticed that his eyes immediately went to the door to see who else was walking into the room. This was a clear indicator to me that he wanted to be sure to spot a more important customer than me. That’s not a good idea if you want to sell your book.

The rest of us exchanged cards. This guy gave me his card and had absolutely no interest in my card. When I began looking through his pretty wonderful looking book, he still wouldn’t stop talking. I was definitely turned off when he gave me the price (after I asked), looked at me, and added, ‘or whatever you can pay.’ Grrr.   What made him think I couldn’t afford his book? That type of thing, I understand, has nothing to do with me and all to do with him but I really didn’t appreciate it.

I’ve noticed the authors who never buy other authors’ books at events. I like to support. Maybe others don’t have the money. I get that. But not to even come over to a table to say hello, I just don’t get. So, this may sound like a rant and maybe it is. But how do expect the public to support our books when we won’t even support each other? Being part of the author community means coming out of one’s comfort zone and speaking with a stranger, maybe even someone that writes in an entirely different genre. It’s nice to stick to the members of an already established supportive writers network but we never know what a new one will offer us or what we can offer it.

These are just my musings, in other words, “Just wondering.” Maybe I should write to Dear Abby.


The Holidays…

While acknowledging that not everyone celebrates this end of year trifecta of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, I must say that I do. Every year it’s different but depending on my spiritual condition it can be great or devastating. I’m not talking about how often I went to church but of how I treated myself and those around me. It also depends on whether I’ve been connected to my Higher Power. 

I’m not one of those who wears my religion on the outside. That’s for no particular reason, it just is. It’s more of an inside job. When I get together with others in my spiritual community it sustains to a certain degree. The wholeness I seek comes in the forms of meditation, prayer, and walking the good road. It’s easy to forget but I try to engage in at least one of these on a daily basis.

My spiritual practice allows others to be who they are meant to be. That sounds awfully big of me as I write that down but the truth is that I often think I know everything and especially what’s best for others. Luckily, my HP usually gives me reminders when I’m a bit off and not keeping my side of the sidewalk clean while pointing out the litter across the street or down the block.

Personal reflection during the holiday season comes with the territory of my life. I look back, while not staring for too long and contemplate my future while not forgetting my feet are planted in today. Past holidays, for me, were filled with ‘is it good enough?’ That translated to ‘am I good enough?’ Not great thoughts to wrestle with while barraged with advertisements depicting ‘more, more, and more.’

I’ll be in the quiet for this holiday. I’ll gift a few people and know that I’m an okay person who has moved from the material closer toward the spiritual. I’m in a state of gratitude for the people I’ve come in contact with during 2015 and looking forward to forging new relationships in 2016. I know that if I tend to my spirit as I would my garden that beautiful flowers will grow. I will not be in a constant state of ‘want’ and know that my HP has provided me with everything I need. 

Happy Holidays!

Writing: Growing with your favorite author

My mother was an Agatha Christie junkie. I still have her collection that proves it. I’m an addict of sorts too. If I like something, I want more and more of it. The problem is that seconds and thirds are never quite like the first.

When it comes to my own book interests I’ve become a devotee of certain authors. Everyone knows that I adore everything written by Joyce Carol Oates. Both Oates and Christie have written over different decades and they’ve changed just like me.

There was a time that if I read a book and didn’t care for it in an ‘over the top’ way I never bought another book from that particular author.  Now that I’m an author, I’m aware of the changes writers experience. The life of each character and each storyline are so different that as a writer I can’t expect to offer the same book within different book covers.

As a reader, I love to explore various genres and subtypes within the genre. I may want to read a ‘cozy’ mystery one day and a ‘chiller’ the next. I’ve learned not to compare one as better than the other. They should be enjoyed within the context of what they are meant to be.

I hope to continue to grow along with my favorite authors and enjoy each new book as a ‘first’ and not in some preconceived notion of what I think it should be. Read on folks, read on… 


Writing: Me, a co-dependent author?

Suffice it to say that last week I’d been walking around in a cloud of free floating anxiety. I have no idea what other authors go through when their newly pressed novels take their places on public shelves but I can be pretty sure that everyone deals with this stress in some shape or form. My subject matter will soon be up for scrutiny… wait… it is already out in the world.

I can’t help but get consumed about ‘what will the neighbors think?’ or in my case, ‘what will my readers think?’, but censoring my characters would be a travesty to the development of their stories. There will be readers who get the characters, the stories, and the backstories and there are some who won’t. This all reminds me of a creative course I took where several students and teachers told me they ‘didn’t get’ my writing. That, I believe is a mask for the inability to articulate what may be ‘wrong’ with how a story is told. Maybe it’s the style or the POV that needs some fixing but it may be difficult for some people to utilize the tools of critiquing adequately. But truthfully speaking, I didn’t get the teacher’s, aka Editor for a Magazine, decision to encourage a fellow student to submit her piece for publishing. The story was about a couple who rolled down hills together in a deep pile of crunchy autumn leaves. Pretty, but what was the story? I guess I’ll never know.

It’s possible that a writer’s subject matter is taboo to certain people. Taboo- that’s not a word that I experience in my world often. Every day I’m made aware that the line in the sand is pushed a little further all the time and it is washed away by the waves of the Universe. We carry our personal lines in the sand deep within us. Many of us don’t allow others to witness how far we’ve ventured with that line on that stretch of sand and never will.

Reading is certainly not a passive act, it is an action. I cannot be fed by the author but if I open myself to what he or she wrote I may be able to identify and not compare and see the humanism in the story.  Just in the same way, I cannot expect my work to be all for everyone. That’s an impossibility but in the bigger picture, we are all more alike than different. I’ve read many books in my lifetime and I’ve loved many and not so many. Different readers will click with different types of writings. Hashing these thoughts and feelings out with supportive people has brought me to another place- one where I can be free of the anxiety of what others think to a place of enjoying the process that being a writer brings.

I’m quite taken with my new creative piece. When the box arrived and I opened it, I thought of how much I’d like to read it. The book is exactly one that I would pick up from a public shelf. A mystery, starring a Latina, who is full of zeal for life and the beauty it brings, is my kind of story. That’s what counts the most. Yes, I care. But I also know that life is large and what is today may not be tomorrow. That makes everything all right. So for today, I’ll stay in today. What a great place to be.


Writing: what’s your motive?

Memoirs seem to hit a nerve of mine- badly. I wonder about memoirs written by twenty year olds, without a trace of counseling or therapy, that seem to be done with the intent of hurting and exposing those individuals they feel have hurt them. That said, I’m creating a book of poems that is a memoir of my experience of my older sister’s death when she was fourteen and I had just turned eleven. It is my book of grief. While I didn’t have voice I had the power of listening and observation. I didn’t even have a squeak of a voice then but I do now and it speaks volumes.

Writing has given me a place to say things I never would have had the nerve to say years ago. I just didn’t have the ability to say what I would have wanted. Now that I’ve learned to articulate whatever I want, I’ve started thinking about whether what I am saying or writing is appropriate for the forum and deeper yet, what is my motive?

I’m not twenty, I’ve had years of therapy, and found myself writing poetry about that dark time without planning it at all. It just seemed to intuitively come to me that those dark times had to be written on empty pages.  Then, I remember being treated harshly by others and me toward myself. Today, I know that these writings are an opportunity to be compassionate toward myself.

Writing these verses have moved me tremendously on treating myself gently. I feel my heart opening and that allows me to be compassionate toward others, especially those I may have judged harshly regarding what I’ve considered their motives- whatever their motives.

For me, the timing for sharing these days of despair is coming and the place will be in a little book that I share. The light in all this is the healing that I’ve experienced. Light and dark dance to create a wonderful shadow world, one of the places in which I live.

Go ahead, boast!

There’s something that tells me to keep my volume on low and try not to attract too much attention. Do a good job and your reward will come one day (we hope) even if it’s in the next station during the afterlife. The idea of not celebrating or talking too much about your good thing is advised because something awful will probably come around the bend. My backstory was one that if one laughs too hard that they will end up crying and not in a good way.

Culturally and traditionally, as a Latina who came of age during seventies feminism, I sometimes have to check myself when I have reactions to how things go today.   Anyone of my peers knows that to wear a red dress or red lipstick was not approved by the generation before me. Risking one’s reputation as a vixen might surely compromise future good husbands or some such nonsense. Going out to clubs was often seen as something only a harlot would do. But many of us did and when I look around I see that we’ve forged lives of which we are proud.

That is just a sampling of the foundation that is under my feet. This means that  when I turn my volume on high I feel the grumblings of my past. I’m sometimes shocked at what others do as they create their brands as authors and then I laugh thinking ‘hey, I need a little of that hubris or pride.’ It’s taken me a lifetime to get to this place where I write stories of characters who interchangeably wear white hats and black hats, where what you see isn’t entirely what you get.

That’s one of the thrills of writing- getting out of one’s comfort zone. If I could do it in real life no matter what my history is then I can do it on page. Slowly, my wings are spreading and I’m allowing the true me to be channeled through me. I always love the backstory but it’s not the current story that’s clamoring to be told. So, go ahead,  people, boast, brag, be who you are, it helps me be me.


Writing: the challenge of ego

People who are familiar with recovery terms know the phrase ‘Drop the Rock.’ Surrender, Let Go and Let God, and similar sayings amounting to the same ideology. I translate them to the idea that someone knows better than me, it could be my Higher Power or a five year old, and I could learn something simply by listening. My ego is heavy and it would stead me well not to drag it everywhere I go, especially in my writing.

I read a Facebook post recently to the effect of how we shouldn’t applaud writers or artists because of their backstory. Their product has to be, at the very least, good. Someone else chimed in, shouldn’t they be encouraged like we do for a five year old? I don’t think so.

If my five year old grandson shared a poem or a painting I’d be head over heels enthused. I don’t think it would occur to me to critique it. I’d lavish praise and probably not stop to think whether chartreuse goes with pink. 

When an adult shows me work I go into a very different mode. I do a thorough critique. I’ve been in groups where writers are horrified at any suggestion to change. They believe the work they’ve submitted is the best and cannot be improved. I’ve felt devastated in my earlier writing experiences by suggestions from others. Some I took with a grain of salt and others I worked at painstakingly. I hope the result is that my work improved.

We do a disservice by pretending things are good because we like a person. Wouldn’t you want to know if your hem was in need of repair? A couple of stitches go a long way. My first unpublished novel that stars ‘Daisy Muñiz’ needed lots of work. It wasn’t accepted for publication although my beta readers loved Daisy and the idea of an awkward, curious for life, ‘detective by default’ character. 

I hammered away at creating Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery. It’s a ‘cozy mystery’ and not something I envisioned doing in the early days of my writing. With suggestions from others and allowing myself to ‘drop the rock’ a whole new vista emerged before me. 

Like anyone, I gladly receive praise but also take in the sometimes harsh advice of others and like to think my ability to weave a good tale is improving because I do.

Now, drop the rock and get to your creative work. It’s waiting for you.

Making sense when there is none

Last week a colleague of mine was brutally murdered. I received the news in a group email- understanding exactly why and proceeded to want to reach out. Instead someone reached out to me and I was given the opportunity of service in this tragic situation. My act of service is still reverberating within me.

Days later, I'm still ruminating over what happened. I'm okay with the fact that none of us are permanent fixtures on this planet. My dis-ease probably has more to do with the why's and how's of when my time will effectively be over. But in the meantime I am still trying to make sense of this awful thing that happened to a vital, dynamic, loving, and well-loved person. Someone, who like me, had decided to heed the call to service.

I discussed these happenings with a person I respect who suggested I do things that are pretty external to the matter. She suggested that I stop wearing my earrings. That I should not adorn myself, I guess, to attract undue attention. I briefly thought about putting my crystal necklace away and my bracelets in the jewelry box and knew intuitively that doing that won't lessen the chances of being attacked. Yes, I think the underlying message was to be careful. I heard that loud and clear. But I don't think that is the way to care for myself.

I don't think the problem is about working with mentally ill people- that is something I've read about in the newspaper. Violence has always been around and it's not going anywhere. An acquaintance of mine, who is an actor, was recently assaulted pretty badly on the train. He now feels terribly unsafe as millions of us do- probably to a greater extent. Random violence is possible. Targeted violence is also possible. Neither he or more friend did anything to warrant what happened to them.

I've worked in mental health crisis situations for years. I don't talk about them much but accept what I've experienced more as 'part of the work that I do.' Again, it's the service my Higher Power has asked me to do.
I can think of a million ways that I will cross. Instead, I will try to be careful each day I put my feet on the floor as I get out of bed. When I was growing up my Mom always said, "I love you, be careful," as we separated for the day. I still say that to my spouse except that I add, "and carefree." It's important to enjoy each day of life. I have no regrets, there may be some things I'm working through but nothing love and prayer can't fix.

So, my prayers go out for my colleague, Ana Charle, and her daughters, her father, her brother, her friends and family and all of those whose lives were lit with love because she saw the possibilities of health, growth, and potential for change in each one. This is something I must continue to do for that is my calling. And I will. Just as she did.

-Kadeeshday. May you walk in beauty.

It’s all in the smile

I’m on social media- a lot. I noticed the other day that everyone’s children are lovely. Pictures show that they are angelic, well dressed, and down right cute! Adorable. Posed. Boring. I’m at the age when I can talk about how it was back in the olden days. Back in the days when my mother took pictures with her Argus camera we didn’t see resulting photographs until a week or a month later. Sometimes the developed film wasn’t picked up from the pharmacy until a year or more later. That’s when the laughs began.  The concept of awkward family photos is usually relegated to those photos taken before the invention of the phone/camera combo. I love ‘Throwback Thursdays’ when I get to see the candid vibrant pictures of my friends who are usually in a puddle of other kids.

Pictures of kids whose eyes have taken on demonic tones, whose hair looks like a manual egg beater went through it, or like they just sat down and squashed a raw egg no longer exist. Glaring sun in their eyes? No. My mom won a company photo contest when her image landed smack in the middle of the sphere at the 1965 World’s Fair thanks to nifty “double exposure.” My favorite picture taken during my childhood is of my sister on her first Holy Communion. Two weeks after the event, when my mom tore open the envelope, we laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. Her goofy turned up smile was perfect against her pristine white lace dress and filmy veil.  My sister explained she’d merely gotten tired of picture taking.

Today, I usually see candid shots of how perfect little ones are in the eyes of their loving parents who might not see the perfection of imperfection. Photos that show cute, cute, and more cute. I’m not suggesting shaming pictures or the ones I’ve seen taken in the middle of a tantrum. Those are private moments that every child should have. But it seems many of today’s pics are quickly deleted. What will that mean in the future when children who are all grown up leaf through their parents Facebook pages and they see that they were always awesome and the angle of their childhoods was always just right?  I still love leafing through my mother’s albums crammed with black and whites and color shots. They remind me that I was a funny kid and I was sometimes sad. I was always a pretty full rounded person and my bad days weren’t deleted. They sit right next to my good days. While those paper pictures may be a bit faded in color they will never be in my memory. Thank you old Argus!


Fulfilling a Vision

Something  occurred to me again, because I already knew it, but you know how it is when you ‘really’ get something. My thought is about how important it is to take action steps when developing a creative life. That may seem like a no-brainer but it’s  not always so evident or easy. There was a time in my life that I thought, while lying on the sofa watching television, that ‘someday’ and ‘somehow’ I was going to create something successful. What I can say about that is that at least I had a vision.

I still sometimes struggle with taking action. I often sit in front of the television and watch other people’s creativity at work. I usually get up after a couple of minutes and say to myself, “let me go and do my creative work; thanks for the inspiration.” My excuse that I worked all day is just an excuse. Afterward, I go to bed feeling a lot better about myself than if I had used ‘having a long day’ as a reason for not writing or doing something else I love, like picking up my beloved accordion.

Another thing I find important in fulfilling my vision is sharing it with someone else. When I went to school as a child I got in the habit of covering my work. There was always another kid who resembled a crane as they tried to sneak peeks at the answers on my pages. Even as an adult there have been people that were unscrupulous with how they treated the work I shared with them. But still, there’s a certain power to sharing one’s vision. I believe that by putting my vision out into the Universe that it clarifies my plans, strengthens my commitment, and leaves my vision open to a blessing that can only be received if I’ve shared it aloud. So often, others’ feedback have helped me to view my work in an expanded manner. Will someone steal my idea? Maybe. But I think that each person’s vision is different and will be effected in a unique way. There’s enough to go around. By giving voice to my vision I am exhaling a prayer into the Universe that is abundant in its gifts.