Happy Fourth Anniversary Elevator Pitch

The traditional fourth anniversary gift is fruit or flowers, and the modern gift is appliances. This vegan is always happy to eat more fruit and look at beautiful flowers. As for appliances, other than a Vitamix for my kitchen, I think I’m good…but then again those ads for the new Samsung Note7 are calling to me. Thank you to all who have visited this website and read my words, especially to those who have encouraged this writing journey I’m on. In four years, the over eighty posts I’ve written have received over 8,000 views. That’s humbling, encouraging, and motivating. 

Looking through the analytics is also frustrating. The periods where I have consistently published new content, my followers (dare I call you fans?) have grown both on this blog and across my social media platform, confirming what all the experts teach. Then I suffer a health flare-up or migraine attack, and I get knocked off my game. It seems like I’m constantly starting over and rebooting. As it is, I’m lying in the dark, nursing yet another migraine, using voice recognition technology on my android Note5 to draft this. I am determined to be persistent, no matter how inconsistent, until I achieve my goals!

A friend and fellow board member of our local writers guild, knowing some of my health and writing challenges, sent me a lovely email this week. After assuring me my presence at the last meeting was missed and hoping I felt better, he went on to tell me about a challenge he is doing through Problogger.com. He found it helpful and suggested I might, too. So I checked it out, realizing it might be a way to reinvigorate my blog. Instead of doing the seven-day challenge my friend mentioned, I backed up to the beginning and decided to attempt the thirty-day starter challenge. Thanks Rainer, Devotional Guy, I will pick up the gauntlet you gently and kindly threw down.

The assignment for the first day is to create an elevator pitch for the blog. I see the logic of this, and have created elevator pitches for each of my works-in-progress. However, this requires a bit more thought on my part since I write fiction. This is a personal blog. It’s purpose is to practice my craft and build a following who might want to read my novel if ever I complete it. I taught writing and literature pre-stroke, but that’s not my purpose now. There are so many already doing a fabulous job of that, and it’s no longer my first love.

What is the unifying thread to what I write about, both online and in my fiction, that could be made into an elevator pitch? So glad you asked! I spent hours mulling over that very question while cleaning the kitchen last night. (Small kitchen, but lots of unplanned mishaps equal lots of cleaning and thinking.)

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

Flannery O’Connor

So let me think through this in writing… My tagine for the last four years has been “Unleashing the Next Chapter,” and I still like that, but it speaks to what I’m doing more than what I’m writing. When writing (and reading) fiction I am drawn to mystery. Whodunit and why and how? When writing non-fiction, I am drawn to those evils that are hidden and cause hurt, especially to those who can’t defend themselves. Human-trafficking, invisible illnesses, religious intolerance/persecution, illiteracy and inequality… these are the common themes running through my eighty-plus posts and my creative writing. Some pieces have been serious, some more light-hearted. I’ve also been able to share some of my activities, memories, and travels.

Now, how do I turn this into an elevator pitch? I guess, in thirty seconds or thirty words or less, this blog is about my writing experience and advocating for those unable to speak for themselves by shedding light on modern slavery, invisible illnesses, religious persecution and intolerance, and illiteracy. Evil thrives in the silent, secret dark. I want to be a noisy light in the darkness.

Since my teen years, I’ve attempted to filter my goals and actions through Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)

My hope and prayer for my life and my writing is to not only be just, but to work for justice for the oppressed, to be loving and kind to all I meet, and to be humble in all circumstances. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.

Here’s to another year of writing, and to Unleashing the Next Chapter. Thanks again for your continued encouragement!

Creative Serendipity

As mentioned previously, I’ve been in a creative funk for months. Some might call it writer’s block or lack or self-discipline or procrastination… whatever. I wasn’t writing. And, I wasn’t happy about it. A vicious cycle was growing and I had to break free. I renewed my commitment and decided to apply Jeff Goins advice: YOU ARE A WRITER. (So Start Acting Like One.)

Since I started treating writing like it’s my job (I know– I can hear you laughing, and honestly I also rolled my eyes as I typed that), new and exciting things have happened– who’d have thought!

I’ve started talking with my writer friends about… wait for it… my work in progress (gasp!) rather than family life, what books we’ve read, the weather, politics, etc. Since doing that, I’ve gotten some great suggestions to work out rough spots in my manuscript, had a few productive brainstorming sessions, and found an accountability partner who is many steps ahead of me on this publication journey.

I also realized, yet again, the wisdom of Ben Franklin’s little rhyme:

“If you would not be forgotten,

as soon as you are dead and rotten;

either write things worthy of reading,

or do things worthy of writing.”

Taking Mr. Franklin’s advice, rather than sit at my desk bemoaning the lack of inspiration, I chose to “do things.” Last year when my husband was being considered for jobs out of state we realized we should take advantage of all the tourist things we hadn’t done in Dallas in the twenty-six years we’ve lived here, and made a list to pull out in moments like these. I love travelling and sightseeing, but often forget to be a tourist in my own county.

  • We toured the Dallas Holocaust Museum which proved to be a great resource for the historical fiction mystery I am developing (WIP #3).
  • We dined at The Original Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge and visited with “the family” regarding its history and the possibility of using it as a setting in my next novel (WIP #2). If those walls talk to me, half of the story will be written in the corner booth by the bar.
  • Restaurants! No visit to Dallas is complete without visiting its fabulous restaurants, which is also a great way to break up the sightseeing. As a vegan, I’m grateful so many restaurants now offer veggie options on the menu. Here are some we enjoyed in the last few weeks… S & K at Iron Cactus roofbecause who can be inspired or creative on an empty stomach?
  • We  visited the Sixth Floor Museum, which also added to my research for WIP #2. This outing included my mom and one of her oldest and dearest friends. It was fabulous to hear their memories and stories from the 1960s.
  • The Reunion Tower ball is iconic in the Dallas skyline. It was great to enjoy the skyline from the GeO-Deck with my mom!Mom & K top of Reunion Tower
  • I attended writer groups including talks by authors I admire, a police chief who shared stories of his time as an undercover narcotics officer, and a retired FBI agent who specialized in anti-terrorism. Each of these presentations triggered ideas that I can use in current and future projects.

Attending this morning’s gathering of the Dallas Mystery Writers, I was fortunate to sit with Carol Puckett. I challenged myself to get to know at least one new person at each meeting–a tough task for this introvert, and was hugely rewarded for my effort today. Carol and I got along great. I learned about her and her husband. She loved my service dog. After the speaker we ate lunch and continued our visit. Turns out that she is the chair of BoucherCon 2019 which will occur in Dallas and celebrate the 50th year of the Anthony Awards.

Through our serendipitous meeting, Carol and I were able to brainstorm ways to add technology and perhaps even a live-streaming option to the conference. My friend, Marsha, and I were able to give Carol names of local authors who might be willing to help with the conference. I also suggested some promotion and fundraising ideas Carol hadn’t considered. She invited me to join the local organizing committee for BoucherCon2019, and asked if I would be willing to speak at one of the lunch sessions. We noted that creativity, inspiration, and connections happen when and where you least expect them. Carol left with a list of action items to follow up on.

As a marketing student, I was taught to dress one step better than was expected and to always act prepared for the job you want rather than the one you have. In the past two months I have acted like an author as much as possible, and am pleased to report that the wisdom of the past still holds true. Serendipity is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” I’m again reminded that I must get out of my head and my apartment and “do things worthy of writing” for inspiration, creativity, and serendipity to occur.

I’d love to know what you do to get your creative juices flowing! Please leave a comment or suggestion. If you enjoy my writing, look forward to reading my stories, want to encourage my dream, or like getting glimpses of my life, please follow this blog, like my Facebook page, and share with your friends.

Wishing you much creativity and serendipity! 

Busy-ness

It’s been such a busy week! I don’t want to neglect my renewed commitment to blog, so here are four quick updates for you:

  1. If you aren’t aware, or haven’t yet liked my Facebook page, please know that I post there almost daily, including #100DaysOfGratitude and #365PhotoChallenge. Today I did a bit more, including sharing my process and tools for organizing and outlining story ideas, and information about FL-41 lenses. My new sunglasses arrived, and there are links under today’s FB status about research regarding the FL-41 tint and how it affects those with photophobia, migraines, or epilepsy. I also shared links for two suppliers I have researched and recommend.
  2. I’ve received many kind comments asking about the car accident mentioned in my last post and how Gizmo is doing. I update Gizmo’s Facebook page regularly, but I don’t think there is info about the accident there. Thank you for your concern. Here’s the short version:
    •   Eleven days ago, after celebrating my birthday, Hubby and I were rear-ended by a woman driving under-the-influence. We were stopped at a red light, behind the rail-road tracks, when she plowed into us. Our son was in the car ahead of us, on the other side of the tracks. She attempted to flee the scene, but her car went kaput on the tracks.
    •   I don’t think we realized at the time that we were hurt as adrenaline kicked in and the immediate concern was getting her car off the tracks before the DART Light-Rail came. My husband and son were able to move it off the tracks, but not far enough to be safe. The train came to a halt just in time. DART Police and the Dallas Fire-Rescue unit arrived quickly. Dallas Police arrived a few minutes later. Everyone, from the 911 operator to emergency response personnel to tow truck operators and clean-up crew were extremely helpful and professional. Both cars were totaled. The woman who hit us was arrested.
    •   After the excitement died down and we were on our way home we realized I had been body slammed into the passenger door. Due to diminished sensation on my right side from the strokes, it wasn’t until the swelling started that we could better assess my situation. My head was swollen and bruised, and my glasses broken. My husband had just enough time to anticipate the collision and tense up, so he suffered sore everything. Gizmo was in the back seat, and jerked around as well. He was quite out of sorts for about a week, but didn’t suffer any injuries. Every officer and paramedic checked him out. Our family doctor checked us out, and said I had a concussion as well. We were very lucky to walk away.
    •   I would like to rant about driving under the influence, and throw out a bunch of statistics, but I don’t imagine I could add anything you don’t already know to that conversation. Suffice it to say, DON’T drink (or smoke, or pop pills, or shoot up) and drive!
    •   Yesterday we finalized everything with the claims adjuster and replaced our car. The insurance company was very fair, covering all our medical,  Hubby’s lost wages, property damage, and even throwing in extra for pain, suffering, and inconvenience. Many have advised us to get an attorney to sue both the woman who hit us and her insurance company for punitive damages, saying we’d never have to work again, but that’s not how my husband and I do things. Life’s not fair, accidents happen, and there are consequences to every action. We had talked to a friend who is an attorney. We knew our options. We chose to wait and see how things would play out. The legal system is dealing with the woman who hit us–her life is so messed up right now, that suing her just wouldn’t matter. Her insurance provider handled everything quickly and professionally, and the final settlement not only covered all our expenses from the accident, but gave us enough to purchase a car that meets our needs and budget. Having chosen to live as debt-free as possible, we haven’t had a car payment since 2002, and are grateful we could pay cash for this vehicle out of the insurance settlement. God continues to be gracious.
  3. Converting our sons’ bedroom into a study is almost complete. I plan to write a blog post revealing the final look in the next week or so. All the books are unpacked and organized and the stained-glass lamp is hung. Still need a few organizational and decorative items, and then I can call it done.
  4. Writing is picking up speed. I am on pace to finish my manuscript by June 13. The first third has already gone through major revisions. Brainstorming with an artist about the cover design commenced, and I’m excited how well we work together. Beta readers are lined up, and when the manuscript goes to them I will focus on finalizing the cover. Meanwhile I’ve been stranded in the messy-middle of this story for too long. After lamenting over this sticking-point to an author friend at the last Writers Guild of Texas meeting, he reminded me about playing the “what-if” game and developing sub-plots. I’ve been so intent on making my writing focused and staying off the rabbit trails that I forgot the sub-plots. (Thanks C.L.!!) Every aficionado of mysteries knows there must be sub-plots to hide the red herrings. Now I’m cranking out those words again…

Pictures are on Facebook if you would like to see more about what’s going on with me and/or Gizmo. If you enjoy my writing, look forward to reading my stories, want to encourage my dream, or like getting glimpses of my life, please follow this blog, like my Facebook page, and share with your friends. I have a big dream. Please be part of my team and watch the vision become reality. Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

“Teamwork makes the dream work…”  ~~ John C. Maxwell

 

Planning~~Laughing~~Writing

Recently I was challenged to tell my life story in six words. Being a novel writer who loves details, this was more than a little daunting. I think I finally figured it out.

I make plans and God laughs.

I am a planner. Since childhood. I enjoy working out details, crafting goals, and anticipating the plans becoming a reality. This planning, from inspiration to daydreaming to outlining, is also my favorite part of writing.

Unfortunately or fortunately, not sure which, sometimes both, God hears my plans and I can imagine him laughing. He has a great sense of humor. Looking back I definitely see that thwarting my plans was the best thing for me. At the time, however, I was often disappointed and frustrated when my expectations didn’t match reality.

I’ve been very disappointed and frustrated regarding my career. It took awhile for me to realize that teaching college was the best possible job for me. I absolutely loved the academic life, research, writing, reading, learning, and interacting with students and colleagues. That was pre-stroke. It took a long time to grieve the loss of that career and figure out what I was meant to do for the future.

Post-stroke I decided to follow my childhood dream of being a writer. But that hasn’t gone as planned either. I have great stories to tell, but my training and experience were for academic and non-fiction writing. My novel first draft was crap. I waited almost a year, read and studied a lot, and tried again. This draft is better, but not yet right. I’ve been very frustrated. Is God laughing again?

Visiting on the phone with a writer friend the other evening (Hey Tex!) we were comparing our writerly journeys. I was feeling very discouraged at the beginning of that conversation and mentioned how I am the queen of productive procrastination. I haven’t added any words to my WIP since last February. I haven’t published a blog post since October. In almost the same time period as I’ve been writing, she is about to publish her third novel. After hanging up, I began thinking about what I’ve been doing since 2010 that has kept me from publishing my novel.

  • … had another stroke in August 2010, and spent months in speech and cognitive therapy.
  • … wrote a number of short stories and flash fiction, learning what works and doesn’t work for me.
  • … read over 100 novels, the majority of which were recently published as my studies and prior preference were for Victorian literature and I had to learn the current publishing market and audience.
  • … attended numerous writing workshops.
  • … served on the board of the local writers’ guild.
  • … studied more blogs and books and websites on the business, craft, and art of writing fiction than I can remember.
  • … loved and encouraged my husband through graduate school.
  • … moved, downsizing from a house to an apartment half the size and minus the garage, attic, and yard.
  • … attended critique groups, both in person and online.
  • … dealt with the continuing residual effects of multiple strokes and TIAs.
  • … trained a service dog, and also trained a number of businesses and organizations about ADA compliance and service dog etiquette.
  • … married off one son, and launched another to succeed on his own.
  • … started a social media platform to practice and promote my art.

Tex and I talked again the next day. I shared the breakthrough I had from analyzing our conversation and how I’ve spent the past six years. She summed it up succinctly, “That ain’t nothing.”

No, no it is not. The amount I have learned in the past six years could justify a DIY MFA. I have not wasted the time, but positioned myself to unleash the next chapter of my writing career from a much stronger position. This time I am setting myself up for success. And, I’ve also learned that there is often another option than God laughing: Sometimes God simply sighs and says wait. I haven’t been productively procrastinating; I have been productively investing in the writerly life that I planned.

Yesterday was my 47th birthday. Once again reality and expectation were a miss… for better and for worse. I hadn’t felt well the week before, so hadn’t planned anything special. Instead I woke up feeling almost normal, family members were available to celebrate with me, the weather was gorgeous, and everything worked out even better than we could have planned. Until the drive home. We were rear-ended. Our car is totaled and I am hurting.

My plan for the last month has been to relaunch this blog and get back on track to finish my manuscript in three months as my “Birthday Resolution.” Over the last few days I saw things weren’t lining up the way I planned, and was talking myself into waiting a bit longer. Then after the accident, when I realized how close Hubby and I were to not being able to walk away and return to our regularly scheduled lives, I realized it is time. No more planning, waiting, procrastinating, or studying writing in lieu of writing. That season, for me, is over. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. My job is to celebrate today, to be busy working at my calling, and to be grateful that I get to do this thing I love regardless of how it is received by others.

KM at NYLO Soda Bar

Rooftop birthday celebration in Dallas

I am a writer. I make plans and God laughs because…

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22).

“For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).

Wishing you much laughter!  ~~KM

 

Take-aways from the Influence and Impact Summit

I love to learn! I often tell my students that no day is wasted if you learn three new things. I try to live by that also. These days, learning for me takes the form of reading, researching, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. This past week I was fortunate to attend the online Influence and Impact Summit hosted by Michael Hyatt.

Twenty-two best-selling authors from various fields (Dave Ramsey, John Maxwell, Jen Hatmaker, Andy Andrews, Donald Miller, Jeff Goins –to drop a few names) were invited to share for 30-45 minutes about how they got started, what they are working on, how they handle fear, what three things they would tell others starting out, and more. I was already familiar with, if not a fan, of about half the speakers. The other half I am now also following. I learned something new from each one of the twenty-two “Influencers.”

Here are my top-15 take-aways (in no particular order):

  1. All spent at least 2-5 years building their online platforms before seeing the results they wanted.
  2. All are extremely transparent, both professionally and personally (Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income even publishes his monthly P & L statement online so his followers can see how he does it, and Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery.com said she gets up every morning and writes her “truth-i-est truth”).
  3. All have a product or service that adds value to their customers.
  4. All are giving back through charities or their own non-profit foundations.
  5. All agree money is not the end-goal, service and people are their top priority.
  6. All network with others in their field, as well as mentor up-and-comers.
  7. All prioritize family and faith before work.
  8. All dominate social media.
  9. All do public speaking
  10. All of them admit to struggling with fear (of speaking, writing, creating new products or services, failure, etc.), but they all agree that to be successful you must feel the fear and do it anyway. Once speaker said if he doesn’t feel any fear he knows he’s become too comfortable and it’s time to do something new.
  11. All know exactly who their audience is, although most of them weren’t sure in the beginning.
  12. All have written at least one book, most have written best-sellers. John Maxwell has sold over 20 million copies of his books.
  13. Most have “teams,” paid or volunteer, real life or virtual, who help do the things that don’t require their personal touch. (Dave Ramsey now has over 500 people working with him.)
  14. Many mentioned participating in Toast Masters and/or watching comics to learn public speaking skills.
  15. Many of them never intended to be a person of “influence & impact,” they just kept doing “the next right thing.”

I thought it interesting that these people who are on top of their fields, not only struggled with fear but still have to address fear. Every single one of the twenty-two offered an anecdote and a hack to subduing that monster. I found that very encouraging.

In Kristen Lamb’s blog post to writers yesterday she wrote, “Very often we are stuck because we fear pain.” I get that! But not only do I fear the pain of offending or publishing bad pieces –I’m about over that, but also because I’m struggling to find my true topic/tribe. As a fiction writer, I don’t want to write about writing or reviewing others’ books because it’s being done by so many people more competent and experienced. I want to blog about issues that are important to me: human trafficking, invisible disabilities, religious freedom, and literacy/universal education. I fear those topics are too disparate to find a loyal following; however, those are the topics that are breaking my heart and working their way through my stories.

I’ve learned my three things each day this week, thanks to Michael Hyatt and his guests. I’m still mulling over what I’ve learned and how to apply the lessons. So, what have you learned today? What have you learned about fear?

Using SRT and Intentional Blogging

This is my first blog post using speech recognition technology (SRT) as my means of writing. After posting a picture of my notebook and workspace by the pool last week, I received a comment expressing surprise that I still wrote by hand. How fortunate are we today that we have so many tools at our disposal, and can match the technology to the purpose.

As most of my followers know, I deal with invisible disabilities, most debilitating of those are migraines. As a writer I find that I have become very sporadic in my writing due to pain, light sensitivity, nausea, and vertigo. But yet I find writers across the centuries who have written amazing works, painters who have painted masterpieces, and even composers who were able to produce music that transcends time and place all while living with a myriad of disabilities. Now I’m striving to figure out how I can work with and around my illness. I’m also curious to learn how others with disabilities use technology or other techniques to continue doing what they love.

While in grad school, I had a friend with severe rheumatoid arthritis who did her PhD dissertation over talk to text technology. That was over a decade ago, and the technology has improved immensely since then. Knowing that, today I’m creating my first blog post using this technology that comes standard on my android smartphone. I’ve been using this for emails, text messaging, and Facebook posts for a number of years, but I hadn’t practiced using this technology for anything longer, or for any creative type of writing.

As I’m completing the “Influence and Impact Summit” coordinated by Michael Hyatt, (which are videos I’ve been able to listen to in my dark bedroom during this latest round of migraines) and also focusing the rest of October as Intentional Blogging Month per Goinswriter.com, I plan to practice with different styles, purposes, and technologies of writing. I have also been challenged to identify why I write and my audience (learning new technology might be easier). I wrote a post a while back (Creating with Disabilities) sharing how I work on my bad days. I need to put more of those techniques into regular practice.

I look forward to seeing how you respond, and reading your feedback in the comments below.

(* Note: I did use my laptop computer to edit this post and add pictures and hyperlinks.)