Friday, December 27, 2013

Ch-ch-changes and getting inoculated against Comparison-itis?

Ch-ch-Changes (turn and face the strain).  I suspect David Bowie is a bit old for some readers of this blog, but I still think his chorus is apropos. At the end of the year, I always take time to review how the past year went and to plan for the new year.  Windtree Press has done this as well. We've looked at how each of the authors is doing, what we can do differently to be more successful, and what we are willing to let go. Consequently, Windtree Press is making changes that we believe will be good for the authors and for our readers.

You will see a new website in late January that we hope will be easier to navigate, and will definitely provide a much easier way to purchase books from us. We will also be increasing the number of authors at the press which means more books for our readers.

This blog will undergo a change as well. We will be feeding each of our member blogs to the Windtree Press blog. We hope this will give you a one stop means to access all of our author blogs, while still keeping you informed of Windtree Press major developments.

Finally, we will be initiating a quarterly newsletter that will go out to our mailing list of readers. This newsletter will contain news from each of our members, any giveaways and prizes, upcoming events, and new releases. We hope this will keep you in the loop for all the best books that Windtree Press authors have to offer.

Inoculation for Comparison-itis Disease

In my personal review of the past year, I always have to be careful not to contract that dreaded disease known as "comparison-itis." (Thanks to Joanna Penn for coining this term).  That is the virus that causes you to compare anything in your life to someone else and then come up short for the past year. It tends to lead to depression and another disease, especially virulent for writers, known as quitting.

For example, I could easily compare 2013 to 2012 and feel bad because in 2012 I had a job other than writing full time that made significantly more money than I do now.  I could easily envy those who hung on to their jobs and their economic security.

I could also easily compare my book sales to some other author who did better and be upset because "my books are certainly as good or better than that author's books." I haven't made a bestseller list yet like some friends who have. I haven't hit the regular 1,000 books per month sales figures like another author friend. If I let the comparison-itis virus take over, I would end up quitting writing. It is a dangerous virus, not just for authors but for anyone who allows comparisons to stop them from moving forward in life.

If you don't stop comparison-itis in its tracks, the virus will eventually take over every part of your life. How can you recognize the early symptoms? It's when this little voice in your head starts saying things like:  I'm not pretty enough, young enough, skinny enough, fat enough, successful enough, rich enough, fast enough, selling enough...you get the picture. Over the years, I've created a three-step health regimen that I engage in throughout the year. Then for that last week of the year, I always reinforce my regimen with an inoculation against the comparison-itis virus. Just like the flu is most virulent in January/February, I find that comparison-itis is must virulent at the end of December. My regular health regimen has three parts.
  1. Reframe my experience.  Yes, I'm not making as much money as I did in 2012, but I worked on  that career for 30+ years full time to get to that state. I've only been working at writing for 8 years part-time and 1 year full time. I'm doing better than many other writers.
  2. Remember, it's not a zero sum game. I don't believe that when someone does well, it means someone else must do poorly. I've known people in many professions that carry the belief you must squash your competitors in order to get ahead. I don't believe that when someone makes the NYT bestseller list it means that my work is worse or hers is better. I believe that when my friend made the USA Today bestseller list, she earned it and I can too. I believe that when I win, I can bring others along with me. We can all be bestsellers in our time.
  3. The Golden Rule, Karma, Hard Work.  I still believe that what will get me ahead is working hard, writing more and writing better each day. I still believe that treating others as I wish to be treated will make my daily walk easier. I will feel better about my progress and that I made it without crawling over any corpses. 

And here is the end-of-year inoculation. It's an age old mantra credited to Thomas Jefferson. I say it every day during the last week of the year, and sometimes several times a day if the virus has made any kind of foothold. The quote is: "Comparison is the thief of joy." I follow that with my own: "And I won't let anyone steal my joy."



I hope my health regimen and inoculation helps you to enter 2014 without the dreaded comparison-itis virus. Let us all skate into 2014 together with the innocence of children, the hard work of adults, and the belief that we can make our own success by moving forward together. 

Yes, you think I'm done but...I have one more disease where I need your help

I'm looking for help to get moving so I stop suffering from the horrific "butt-itis"--that is the spread of the bottom and hips area of the anatomy because I spend so much time with butt glued to chair in front of the computer. Sometime during this past summer, I used superglue to attach my butt to the chair and I think I used too much. It is REALLY strong. Anyone have a solvent? If so, please send it my way.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Fun by Paty Jager

Ten days to Christmas! I've wavered back and forth over the holiday this year. I was excited in October when our son put in for leave and planned to come. We haven't seen his kids in two years. Then the U.S. ran two raids in the Middle East and all leave was revoked at his air base. But I kept my excitement because our daughter who lives in Kodiak and her family were coming for a month.

Slowly that became less and less until they are here for two weeks, one with her in-laws and one with us and they are leaving back home on the 23rd.

At least this year we'll have our oldest daughter and her family close. The last few years we've had to travel five hours to their house for Christmas but this year they are only 20 minutes away. We are doing all the big shindigs at her house. She loves the season and decorates more than I do. And this year with their new house the can have a huge two story Christmas tree.

I didn't put my usual lights outside, less inside, and a small tree. I did all the other decorating I usually do and made the traditional gingerbread family members. I've been baking various "quick breads" that we give to co-workers, neighbors and friends. When our daughter and her kids get here we'll make sugar cookies in Christmas time shapes. They'll help me decorate and we'll make a big mess int eh kitchen but it will be the highlight of my Christmas!

What is your favorite family Christmas time fun?
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Tis The Season...

I'm not fond of the cold, but I love this time of year. The holidays...being thankful...giving
gifts...Christmas lights...the music...the movies. And when it's all done, I love falling into the new year, looking back over the last one, enjoying that moment when time stands still, then looking forward to where I might go from there.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is one I learned years and years ago from another nurse, while working nights in the labor and delivery department of a local hospital. She taught us how to make a box (lid and bottom) out of a Christmas card. Big, red cards seem to be the most eye catching, or cards with gold or silver embossing. Once you've made the box, thread the lid with colorful yarn or ribbon so you can hang it on the tree. Make one for each family member. When Christmas day is done, and before you take down the tree, have each person write their favorite thing about the holidays that year on a scrap of paper. Fold the note and put it in their box. Then pack the boxes away with your ornaments. As the years pass you'll collect the memories inside the box. It's fun, and a bit nostalgic to read them before hanging the box once again on the tree.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

No More Split Personas

I've been spending the past few weeks taking my three author personas: Maggie Lynch, Maggie Faire, and Maggie Jaimeson and making them one--one website, one Facebook page, oneTwitter account, a primary Goodreads page where I can manage all my books, and one Pinterest page.  It has been an all consuming endeavor, but I am SO glad I did it. I was exhausting myself trying to find unique things to say on 9 media places and remembering to keep up with them all.  I really feel so much more free now--unfurled from a split persona.


It got me to thinking about how all of us really do have different personas that we share with the world.  Even if you aren't a writer with multiple names, you rarely share the exact same person every where.  If you have children, you don't share everything with them. There is the role of "parent" you must become. The person I am as a writer also isn't all of me. There is also the wife person and step-mother person and teacher person. Each of these roles is till me, but not the whole me.  When I think about it, nobody gets the whole me--not even my husband. There are things I reserve for certain people and groups, things that other people or groups don't really care or need to know about me.

Not that I'm hiding things. The truth is not everything is interesting to each person or group. Hey, some things about me aren't even interesting to me!

If I had to say where the real me is most revealed, it is probably in my writing--sometimes even without me realizing it until the book is done. Sure I make up places and people and circumstances; but the emotion is mine--the reaction of the protagonist to the situation is mine. It has to be or I couldn't make it believable. Also the underlying belief that good will always triumph over evil and that love will win in the end is all me. The real me. It is what keeps me going every day.

How about you? What are your different personas? Do they ever become confusing or is it easy to maintain the different roles in your life? Do you ever feel that one of the personas is taking over and you need to fight it back?  Imagine how our fictional characters must feel with all of that too.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Penquins or Literary Fame?

The original title of this post was “In Praise of the 20-Year Novel”, inspired by recent accolades for “Sea of Hooks”, a moving tale with gorgeously executed craftsmanship that took the author two decades to write. Starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly aren’t easy to come by, ditto for sweeping literary praise. 

 Some novels, like some authors, need space, reflection, and time. Years of time. 

And then there’s the rest of us caught up in this crazy digital publishing race of more is more.

But is it really more?

Fifteen years ago the idea of finishing a novel, any novel, seemed as foreign and exciting to me as a penguin-counting expedition in Antarctica. Could I finish a novel? I persisted and what I once thought impossible became semi-routine. There is no question in my mind now that finishing a novel is entirely possible. However, that original question has been replaced by something far more exotic, perhaps something truly elusive, and more daunting than tallying breeding pairs of Emporers on Taylor’s Glacier: 

In my lifetime, could I pen something truly memorable, something of lasting value with lovingly turned prose and exquisitely crafted imagery? A story capable of making readers pause and perhaps reexamine the scope of human life and what it means to be human in this day and age? 

I’m talking big-picture values and lofty aspirations. Issues I’m not even sure I possess the talent, or possibly even the time (decades?), to tackle in a meaningful way. Should my literary inspirations be shuffled off to the mental closet marked maybe in my next lifetime?

Each of us have issues gnawing their way out of our souls. Do mine belong on the page? Once exposed to the light of day, will they be of any help or comfort to others? Maybe it’s just not me. I love writing mainstream fiction. I love entertaining my readers without delving into the dark night of our existence. While I love and admire literary fiction, sometimes counting penguins is good enough.

~Jamie


 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Power of Thanksgiving

Did you know that the first official declaration of Thanksgiving day as a national holiday was done by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War? It must have been hard for families to conceive of a day of thanks when so much tragedy was ranging around them.  Later, Franklin Roosevelt tried to move the holiday up a week--primarily to allow more time for holiday shopping. However, a number of states ignored him.  Then during WWII, only a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress finalized the date as the fourth Thursday in November.  Interesting again that a day of Thanks was finalized in the midst of war.

Thanksgiving has power.  Even during war, economic downturns, and personal tragedy people seem to always find a way to give thanks. It is easy to give thanks during times of prosperity. But I think the power of thanksgiving is to be able to give thanks in times of difficulty.  It is then that giving thanks shows hope and belief that better times will come and that we understand what is truly important in our lives.


As a child, our Thanksgiving day tradition was to converge at grandma's house. Each family brought food to share. Of course there were specialties. My Aunt Donna was the pie maker. My Aunt Vickie was the green bean casserole maker. My grandmother spent the week before baking bread. My family usually brought the turkey. Others brought sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of snacks. I come from a large family (9 children) and in addition to my 11 cousins, both my grandmother and an aunt also took in foster children. Add to that the additional friends or other stragglers kids would bring and it was quite the crowd and more food than all of us could consume in a single day.

Before the meal was served we each had to say what we were thankful for that year. Each person had a turn, including the smallest of children who could understand and speak. Sometimes there were 50+ of us present so it took awhile. Once every person had given thanks a blessing for the food was given. Blessing the food was another tradition that also passed from adults to teens.

I still think of that tradition every year as Thanksgiving approaches and I am grateful to have it as my tradition. I still use this time of year to reflect on the many blessings I've had in my life. I think about the  friends and family I've loved throughout my life and how much they have influenced who I am and what I do. I give thanks for those who have died and for those present. I give thanks for those, like my friend Michele, who have given an important part of their lives to helping others. She is in the Peace Corp in Africa. She lives in a one room hut and is never sure if the village will have water that day or not. That reminds me to give thanks for the water I take for granted.

Giving thanks at this time of year may seem a small thing to do, or to some a silly thing to do. However, I find it keeps me grounded for the rest of the year. As I enter into the world of holiday food, shopping, and events to attend, I often feel overwhelmed by the expectations for my time and attention. When that happens I return to my simple thanksgiving and it puts it all into perspective. I am truly fortunate to be surrounded by people I love, to do a job I love, and even to have the opportunity to share these words with you.

What are some of the traditions you value for Thanksgiving?


Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Herd a Cat

By Danita Cahill

As a writer, I love words. As a menagerie manager, I also love animals. So, it only makes sense that I would appreciate sayings about animals, as well as the history behind those sayings.

Let’s take the saying, “Get your goat” for instance. It’s my understanding this phrase originated from the world of thoroughbred horse racing. In the olden days, owners or trainers routinely provided each of their prized thoroughbred race horses with its own goat. The goat would offer companionship for the hot-blooded horse, and act as a calming influence. When owners and trainers traveled with their horses to the racetracks, the goats went along, too, helping keep the horses mellow and quiet in strange surroundings.

Rivaling horse owners, who, of course, wanted their own horses to win the race, made it a habit of telling other owners, “I’ll get your goat.” They knew if they took a horse’s goat away the horse would flip out with worry, and would not keep its head in the race, thus giving the rival an edge.

Interesting, no?

Lately, I’ve found my mind often wandering to the saying, “Herding cats.” This saying is usually mentioned in a negative, sarcastic or derogatory manner. At a writing meeting I recently attended, one of my colleagues made the comment that she found organizing a bunch of writers to do specific tasks was like herding cats.

But the reason my mind has lately mulled over this particular saying is not because I’m a writer. And it’s not because the phrase was mentioned at that particular meeting.

No, it’s because I see “herding cats” in a literal sense on a daily basis.

I don’t know where this saying came from, but I am fairly certain the first person to utter the phrase owned both a Border collie and several kittens, as is the case at our house.

Border collies, as you probably know, are herd dogs. Working dogs. Dogs very serious about performing that work. If their owners don’t assign them a job – such as herding cattle or sheep – Border collies assign themselves a job. 

Our Border Collie, Zip, “helps” me daily. When I go out to feed our horse and alpacas, Zip races ahead to the fence and “holds” the animals in place while I fetch their feed.

The animals are used to Zip’s slinking motions and alert stance. They completely ignore her.
 
Inside the house, the only animals Zip has to “help” with are a lazy Labrador retriever, an ancient cat, two caged Guinea pigs, and three lively kittens. Zip takes her work as seriously inside as she does out. Since the kittens are the most active of the animals allowed in the house, Zip concentrates her efforts on them.

But even a hard-working, serious-minded Border collie like our girl, Zip, can’t make cats stay in formation or force them to go in the direction she deems appropriate.

I’ve included a visual to illustrate this point. In this photograph, Sophie, the kitten, was following me as I was trying to snap a picture. Zip thought she was responsible for herding the cat where she wanted it to go.

I went ahead and let Zip think that. After all, why burst her Border collie bubble?
  
After watching Zip’s ceaseless efforts to “work” the kittens, I’ve come to a conclusion: The inventor of the saying must have had a good, hearty laugh before first uttering, “It’s just like herding cats.”

If you liked this blog post, you might also enjoy my book Kids are a Crack Up: Humorous Stories from the Mouths of Babes. It’s available as an eBook from
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