Weird and Wacky Special Days

long_one[1].jpgLast week my husband said, “Happy lost socks day,” to which I replied, “Huh?” He told me he’d heard on the radio that this was lost socks day. At that point, he glanced at the three unmatched socks abandoned on his side of the dresser.

Skeptical about whether such a day truly existed, I looked it up and sure, enough, May 9th is indeed officially known as Lost Sock Memorial Day. I found a website called Holiday Insights which lists a whole array of unique and in some cases bizarre special days.

Many months ago, I read a marketing tip advising authors to find a special day to tie in with their books. Who knew that Valentine’s Hallowe’en, Labor Day, Canada Day, and so forth barely cover the massive number of special days we can celebrate. Here’s a few more festive occasions in May that you might want to acknowledge, or not.

May 15 – National Chocolate Chip Day (that’s today. Eat a cookie.)

May 16 – National Sea Monkey Day (why? I wonder)

May 17 – Pack Rat Day (I know people who celebrate this daily)

May 18 – No Dirty Dishes Day (unless you’re on holiday, is that even possible?)

May 18 – Visit Your Relatives Day (maybe they’ll do the dishes)

May 20 – Be a Millionaire Day (wonder how that one works)

May 23 – Lucky Penny Day (a rare event indeed, here in Canada)

May 24 – Don’t Fry Friday (never do)

May 25 – Tap Dance Day (love it!)

May 28 – National Hamburger Day (aren’t most days?)

Of course, more serious holidays are also listed, but the point is there’s pretty much an occasion for everyone. If you like to make greeting cards, just imagine what you could do. If you’re looking for rather unique approaches to marketing your books, the opportunities are endless, so have at it.

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Catching Up On Tasks During Easter Break

easter-monday[1]There’s nothing like a four-day break from the day job to catch up on home and creative projects. My husband spent two dry-weather days (the other two were rainy) doing home repairs on our house and planting our garden.

I visited my mother, who wasn’t well enough to spend Easter with us and afterward prepared a ham dinner for the rest of the family. I also took time to make a dent in endless writing projects. They weren’t all about editing, but updating records, organizing papers, and adding live links to my books.

One of the best things about now being self-published is that I can make changes to my books and reissue them when I want to, not when my publisher decides to, if they do at all. After I parted company with the publisher of my Casey Holland mysteries and obtained all rights to my books, I spent a fair bit of time going over all four manuscripts and reissuing them with new ISBNs on Amazon and through D2D (which handles Kobo, Nook, Apple books and other platforms). I was eager just to get the books posted again, but neglected to add live links so that readers could easily access all books from any book they purchased.

Two weeks ago, I finally created live links for all five books in the series, and this weekend I reissued the first four, with the exception of Knock Knock, which I’m going through again. There were a couple of errors that needed correcting.

I also caught up on the dementia journal I’ve been writing since my mother was first diagnosed over four years ago. It is now 25 single-spaced pages, and one day might be helpful in creating characters afflicted with this disease. If you have a friend or family member suffering from dementia, recording everything really helps. It might also be useful for the doctors as well.

I have to say that I’m happy with the Easter break productivity and for all of the family time I enjoyed. Heck, I even dusted parts of my office. Oddly, I didn’t eat any chocolate, but I sure did enjoy my share of wine. We have a membership at a local winery and a case of reds and whites were ready for pickup, and of course, I couldn’t just zip in and out without stopping for a little wine tasting. Yeah, it was a fun, productive weekend. I could use another four-day break like that soon.

 

 

Inspiration from Game of Thrones. Who Knew?

18679295525_f39cc1bc70_z[1]If you’re a Game of Thrones fan like our family is, Sunday, April 14th was a big day, as it launched the beginning of Season 8, the show’s final season. I wasn’t completely waiting with baited breath, as I had plenty of other things to tend to on Sunday before show time.

One of my tasks was to edit a chapter of the urban fantasy I’ve been working on for some time. I always work on it Sunday mornings before spending the afternoon with my mother. Honestly, I didn’t really think about the manuscript the rest of the day.

After the visit and a few more chores, we sat down to watch the show. If you haven’t seen this series, you should know that it has some of the most creative and entertaining opening credits I’ve ever seen. And that’s when it happened.

I’m listening to the music and watching images of heavy square floor panels open and close when an idea for a second fantasy novel bounded into my head. And then another. I grabbed a sheet of paper and pen and started scribbling down everything I was thinking while the credits went on. By the time the first scene opened (there was no dialogue for at least a couple of minutes) I was still scribbling, and managed to write a page and a half on a notepad before the first word was uttered.

Once they were, I fell into their world and forgot all about mine, which seemed perfectly logical, given that I’m writing a modern day urban fantasy set here in British Columbia. Game of Thrones is completely different. Or is it?

Aside from the main plot, the quest to sit on the throne and rule the seven kingdoms, GoT is a story about relationships, trust, betrayal, love, ambition, and battles for the right to control the world.

As it happens, the components aren’t that different from my current WIP, albeit with healing-focused themes and significantly different twists in my work. Those opening credits last Sunday, however, inspired an idea about how to take the themes and aspects in my first book to a whole new level in a second book.

You might find it strange that I’ve never read one of George R.R. Martin’s novels. But, hey, that’s okay. The TV series is amazing and clearly, the opening credits are inspiring enough for the moment.

Human Drama on a Sunday Stroll

conflicto_2[1]Last week I was out for a walk with my mom in her neighborhood. On her street, there are a number of assisted living facilities for seniors. Plenty of seniors using walkers are out and about on sunny days.

On our way home from the store, a man and a woman, in their 20’s or early 30’s, were having an intense discussion about thirty feet in front of us. She was carrying a bouquet of log-stemmed red flowers wrapped in cellophane. He had his hands in his jeans pocket and kept his head down while she did all the talking.

Suddenly, the woman’s voice rose in anger. She looked at her companion, then turned away again. At one point she stopped to face him and her voice rose a second time. With the traffic passing by on this fairly busy street, I couldn’t hear what she was saying and didn’t really want to, except to gauge if we were heading into a dangerous situation. Still,  I slowed my pace.

My 84-year-old Mom doesn’t walk fast anyway, so as we lagged further behind the couple, I kept watching, wondering if things could spiral out of control. I also worried that they might be heading to my mom’s building and could bring their conflict inside.

Suddenly, the young man marched ahead a few steps, then abruptly spun around, and said, “Don’t tell me how I f—g feel. You don’t know how I feel!” He turned back and kept walking.

She said nothing, but continued walking and was soon beside him again. After a minute or two, more words were exchanged but in a calmer tone. They reached the three-way intersection, and crossed the side street. At that point, she abruptly turned right and crossed the street we’d been walking down. He raised his arms slightly above his head, then brought them down hard in obvious frustration. He watched her a moment, then turned left, heading in the opposite direction. By the time we reached the intersection, both had vanished, as if nothing had happened.

Writing about conflict is one thing, witnessing it in real life is something else. Human drama is everywhere. As writers, observing and capturing emotions of the moment is part of our job, but at that moment all I thought about was protecting my mom. What if one of them had been carrying a weapon? What if they’d spotted us and decided we’d been intentionally eavesdropping?

So I write about it now, wondering if those two people resolved their differences or if further drama will enfold in their lives.

Two Projects, Lots of Decisions

volunteer-1888823_960_720[1]This week, I’ve been immersed in two projects (until I came down with the flu yesterday), one is the third-draft edit of my urban fantasy novel. It’s been a challenge, a genre I’ve never written before, but it’s slowly coming together. There’s been positive feedback from my writers’ group, but the novel far from reaching the beta reader stage. I’m making lots of changes, page by page, deciding what to cut, what needs fleshing out, and trying to come up with a deadline for myself, given that this project could go on for years. I’ve already been at it for quite some time, and I maybe I should decide on a timeframe to complete the book.

The second project, in its own way, is also challenging, although this one has a set deadline. In the city where I live, I’m also a volunteer with the city’s Citizens Advisory Group. Our task this month is to review twenty-four grant applications and submit our top five for consideration.

Happily, we can do this online and on our own time, so I downloaded the booklet and began reading it late last week. After making notes on all twenty-four, I found it increasingly difficult to decide which organizations most deserve grant money because they all have merit. Collectively, the applications could have an important and positive impact on communities, our environment, and the physical and emotional well-being of residents of all ages.

After a lot of pondering and determining my own criteria, I came up with five and submitted them on Monday (before the flu took hold), but I wish there was more money to spare. Our small city’s budget isn’t large and the demands far outweigh the available funds. As I’m only one of over two hundred people in the advisory group, my decisions might not have any impact on the final outcome, but at least I tried and did what I thought was best.

To Succeed or Not—It’s More Complicated Than I Thought

search-for-success-intro-220x140[1]In an earlier blog, I wrote about the question of success for writers…what it means, how we define it, and I pretty much decided that it’s up to each of us to define our own measures of success. This often involves meeting goals, some that might have little to do with large royalty checks and tons of book sales.

Of course, the reality is that the world beyond our front door will judge us by our income, book sales, awards and prestigious reviews. Whether that matters is up to you, but apart from my own definitions and goals, I find the overall topic of success fascinating. So I was pretty excited to come across a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this book, Gladwell makes it clear that the success achieved by Bill Gates and the Beatles, for example, is not just a matter of talent or IQ, but of cultural background, family and community support, opportunities seized upon (right time, right place) and decisions made. There’s also the matter of the extreme amount of practice put into mastering their skills.

Gladwell cites the famous study which suggested that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieved the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything. This goes for lawyers, rock stars, and writers, I expect.

It makes me wonder how many hours authors put into writing before publishing that first book (traditionally or through self-publishing), and if that practice is a sufficient foundation to reach multiple book publications and huge sales (whatever huge means). I’m just not sure that the 10,000 hour rule is all that straightforward.

For instance, if authors manage to put in 10,000 hours of writing practice before publishing that first book and landing a contract, is it enough experience to help them write the next two books that publishers often expect in quick succession? Will the authors have the mastery to produce the same quality of work that landed them a contract in the first place?

While Gladwell provides some intriguing anecdotes and stories, not all of the answers are there. He discusses the concept of failure as well, through the story of one of the most intelligent men in the world, yet very few people know who he is. It’s an insightful story.

I do think that Gladwell is spot on when he reveals that the super stars portrayed in his book are well aware that they didn’t get there alone. Again, this is also true for writers. If you’re interested in the topic of how success is created in some people and not in others, then I would definitely recommend this book.

Vacation’s Over, Now Back to Work

Vacations end all too soon, don’t they? We thoroughly enjoyed enough Puerto Vallarta sunshine (I used nearly a whole tube of sunscreen) and sleep (9 to 10 hours a night) to finally feel ready to face whatever this year brings.

Like pretty much everything in my life, I viewed this trip from a writer’s perspective. After all, most of us who love putting words on the page or screen, never stop thinking about writing even if at a subconscious level. We’re always coming up with new ideas and settings, mentally recording bits of dialogue or incidents, and I had plenty of time to do just that.

pool view, villa del mar, jan. 2019As you can imagine from this photo (the view’s from our balcony) I spent a fair bit of time observing people, sometimes from this patio or down by the poolside. Vacationers’ reading habits came as a bit of a surprise. Over half of the people reading by the poolside were holding paperback books. The majority of readers were 50 years and over. But many in the same age group, along with the younger generation, were also reading and/or scrolling through their phones. What surprised me most was the lack of Kindles and iPads there. I brought one paperback which I’d started reading before we left and then turned to my iPad for the rest of the trip.

patio view, villa del mar, jan. 2019This is the view of the other patio along the side of our corner suite. It was my quiet place to think and reflect and, yes do a little light editing for one hour a day. I also pondered writing goals and opportunities for the year. It might look idyllic but what you can’t see is the construction site just to the left, where workers were jackhammering and bulldozing to build a new hotel. Luckily, we weren’t in our room most of the day, and they didn’t work evenings or Sundays.

Lastly, and most importantly, this vacation was about family, creating new memories, jotting notes in my journal, and looking forward to the future. The shot below is of my husband and daughter, sharing a quiet moment. Actually, it’s quite momentous because my husband used to loathe the idea of putting his bare feet in the ocean, until this trip. He’s come a long way. Next time, he says he might actually try swimming in it. Baby steps, right?

elida and bark, playa de los muertos, jan. 2019So now I’m back to major edits, the day job, writing workshop facilitating, and more family stuff. Given that I’ve been on a leave of absence from the day job, it’s been a while since I’ve had a normal routine. But normal is okay. In fact, it’s just fine.