Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What to Drink From in the Morning

My teaching life is about to step up into full gear again. I'm in teacher workdays this week. They are interesting days with a range of meetings (from rage-inducing and time-wasting to thoughtful and useful), intermixed with far too little time left unscheduled and usable for classroom organization and lesson planning. I miss the days when they just let teachers work on teacher work days.

On Monday, the kids are back.

Something I'm trying this year is getting up earlier and giving myself a positive, well-paced morning to lead into the hectic melee we call the school day. This is challenging. Even after twenty years of teaching, I am not a morning person. The husband and I are trying morning yoga practice and I am trying breakfast.



I'm not a breakfast eater, generally, though I know that it is generally considered a good thing to do for your health and wellbeing. Food is unappealing to me first thing when I wake. And traditional breakfast foods (cereal, milk, yogurt, toast, eggs, etc.) are even less so. It's a little better if I don't eat breakfast foods. Leftover supper warmed up is something I'm trying. Protein heavy. I'm giving it a go, but I'm not a fan.

I am a fan of the hot drink varieties of caffeine though: coffee and tea. Especially tea. And I know that the experience is enhanced when you have the right mug to drink it out of. So, I'm mug shopping--in my own cabinets because I'm a teacher in North Carolina (that means I'm chronically broke because they pay peanuts here).

There are a few different things that make a mug perfect.

First, there's the weight. The mug should have some heft, so that you don't tip it over by just because you flicked your hand awkwardly reaching for the blueberries. But it can't be too heavy, where you end up settling it too heavily on the table and sloshing the liquid heaven onto your hand and tablecloth. Tea is much better INSIDE mama than OUTSIDE.

Then there's the shape of rim and how it feel against your lips. I like one that's curved inward, so that when I lift the cup, the warm nirvana is guided down my gullet like it's riding a slide into wonderland. I don't like the ones that feel thin and plastic-y when they bump against my teeth. I really don't like the ones that curve outward, so that the liquid flows into the upper palate and ends up dribbling on my blouse.

Feel in the hand is also important. I have arthritis, so my hands are often stiff and sore in the morning. I like a taller mug with enough surface area to wrap my fingers around and warm the swollen joints. I like a nice retention of heat that comes with thicker sides. Again, not the thin and delicate sort for me. They're pretty, but I don't like to hold them. I always feel like I will break them with my clumsiness (and often have done exactly that).

Retention of heat in the drink itself is also vital. Mugs that are too large, especially the ones that widen towards the top, have too much surface area and the drink can become cold while you are still staring blankly at the sunlight dappling the tabletop and noticing the dust motes it reveals. By the time you remember to pick it up and sip--ew! cold tea. (Oddly, I love iced tea, but cannot countenance hot tea that has become cold).

And lastly, there's the art. Whether it's caffeine humor, a picture of your kids, or just a nice pattern you like, the mug should lift your spirits when you look at it.

So, I found my perfect one. It's my Elmo's mug. It's a traditional diner mug, hefty but not heavy in my hands, large enough to warm my hands and shaped to keep my drink warm, too. It has that curve in the side that keeps my drink pouring in the right direction. And Elmo's is special. It's the first place my now-husband and I had breakfast together. It's the one restaurant choice guaranteed to please all four Bryants. Seeing the mug lifts my heart thinking about Sweetman's face smiling in the lovely morning sunlight through their long windows or my youngest giving me a chocolate chip pancake grin, or my eldest stealing my warm cinnamon apples and giving me a teasing look that says, "What? I'm completely innocent here."



In short, it makes me feel love and loved, and that, my friends, is the right thing to drink from in the morning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Guest Post: C. Hope Clark on Life Balance

It's my pleasure to hand over my blog today to C. Hope Clark. Mystery readers know her for her Edisto Island Mysteries; writers of all genres know her for her Funds for Writers newsletter. I invited Hope to talk to us about balancing a writing life with the rest of life now that she's where some of us still aspire to be: working full-time as a writer. 
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My fulltime job is that of a writer. At my appearances and signings, many people greet me with a wishful expression, and I know exactly what they are thinking. I wish I could stay home and write for a living. One twenty-something approached me not long ago and blurted, “Honey, you are living the dream. You are who I want to be.”
Admittedly, I am living the writer’s dream, but it’s one that comes with responsibilities and coordination. It doesn’t take much for an untended dream to slide into a nightmare.
My dream, however, isn’t self-sustaining. It requires maintenance. Every few months, I stop and analyze my schedule, goals, and purpose, because without attention to them, my dream takes off on tangents, even splintering into tasks that may or may not feed the dream, and can ultimately dismantle my days.
I wanted to leave nine-to-five to write, to pursue a deep personal satisfying quest. However, I made a plan before taking the leap. While writing fulfilled me, I had sense enough to know that it also had to take care of financial obligations. So I developed a three-year plan to pay off debt, save for emergencies, and develop a work ethic of income writing versus creative writing, then at the end of three years, I took an early retirement at age 46.
While I wanted to leave earlier, that three-year plan included qualifying for early retirement which gave me health insurance and a small pension that would always be there for a roof over my head. A necessary evil? Maybe. But in that three years, I also tested several writing avenues, weighing which would bring in the most income, which wouldn’t interfere with my novel-writing goals, and which would provide me with the best platform. I had an intense need to define a balance between responsibility and desire, getting everything I wanted out of my days without sabotaging my well-being.
Errantly, we often think of a balanced life as being one we have to think less about. A laissez-faire mindset that deters regimen or structure. In reality, without some definition we lose balance because there is no weighing in of need and purpose. Our balance goes awry because we aren’t focused.
I’ve been a fulltime writer for over a decade now, and I believe it’s worked because I periodically analyze my schedule, goals, and purpose, beginning with the last.

Purpose

While my main purpose is to write, I learned early on that an equal purpose is to be financially safe. A writer is not successful without both. So instead of saying my dream is to write fulltime, I understand that my dream is maintaining the ability to write fulltime.
Every month I study the time spent on writing for short-term income (freelancing), writing for long-term income (novels), appearances, and self-promotion. They must balance to sustain my fulltime passion, and yes, that means sometimes I write less creative work to bring in dollars in order to buy me time to delve into my novels. Without dissecting this balance regularly, the scales quickly tip in the wrong direction. Too much income writing robs me of my creativity. Too much creative writing robs me of income. My writing is a career, so it takes leveling both left-brain and right-brain tasks to allow me to maintain a fulltime dream.

Goals

Novels have multiple deadlines prior to publication, and so while they do not bring in income, they have needs. A novelist also plans several books ahead, meaning a multi-year, long-range plan, and until those novels are published and bringing in income, a certain number of short-term goals must be met to pay bills. This analysis of long-term and short-term goals takes place monthly so I do not stray.

Schedule

While goal-tending is great, day-to-day activity isn’t so precise or easy to monitor. But I left the nine-to-five partly because of a suffocating regimen, and I do not want to replace one rigid structure with another. So I go out of my way not to force-feed myself a daily schedule.
Monthly reviews of my work, covering creativity and entrepreneurialship, are sufficient for me. In the day to day, I allow a more relaxed environment.
I rise when my clock tells me to, and I go to sleep when my clock beckons. My work may make for five-hour days, or fifteen, depending upon my energy and enthusiasm, but my work week is a forty-hour minimum. The greatness about being a stay-at-home writer is that I can deem what makes for a satisfying day without worrying about a clock or overseer.
To avoid burn-out, I take breaks to walk the dogs, tend the chickens, and garden. I can make doctor appointments in the day without missing work, and I can take a break and visit the zoo with a grandson in the middle of the afternoon before it gets crowded.
I can work until three AM knowing I can sleep in. I can stop and cook dinner, watch a mystery on television, then return to the job because it’s just down the hall. While I give myself Saturday as a day off, I’ve learned that I love my work so much that I rarely reach the end of the day without checking for replies from publishers, editors, and readers.

Balance can’t be too loose or too strict, but it’s critical to feed the passion and the self-sustainability of a writing career and find that perfect level. Give yourself enough of a structure that you feel focused, but enough detachment to feel you’re not tied down.
Without a doubt I’m living the dream, and with the balance I’ve achieved, that dream will take me as long as I wish.

BIO: C. Hope Clark loves living her writing dream and will continue to the end of her days. She just released Echoes of Edisto, book three in The Edisto Island Mysteries, and has many books planned in her long-term goals. www.chopeclark.com








Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fangirling: Flash, Season 1, Episode 17

Summer is media time for me. I can't really watch TV much during the school year, not and keep up with teaching, mothering and writing. So, I binge in the summer. Netflix is my bud.

I watched all of Stranger Things, two seasons of Penny Dreadful, most of season 6 of The Walking Dead, and half of a season of Jane the Virgin so far this summer. I've also watched a few episodes of The Flash (I'm still in season 1 because the husband and I are trying to watch it together--and he's not got the summer off).

I really want to love The Flash. It's my kind of show. There's so much that is right about it.

Barry Allen (played by Grant Gustin) is perfect. He's youthful without being a child, romantic without being sappy, idealistic without being an idiot, funny without being a clown, and vulnerable without being a wimp. Even when the writing goes all emo on me and Barry is handed loser lines to speak and weak plots, Gustin makes a silk purse out of that sow's ear because he gets the heart of the character.

What I love about the character in this iteration is that, in spite of tragedy and bad luck in his past, he still has heart. He hasn't become bitter or vengeful. Even as he struggles to deal with the mystery of what happened to his mother, he doesn't turn a Batman sort of dark.

I also love Joe West (played by Jesse L. Martin). He's a rare creation in television history: a good father. There's no sign of Mrs. West so far in the story, so he appears to have been doing this alone, at least for a while, and raising an extra foster son with love as well as his own biological daughter. So, a good, black, single dad. Are there any more of those anywhere on television? Even rarer, he seems to have a clue when it comes to parenting adult children.



Harrison Wells (played by Tom Cavanagh) is a complex villain and I love how his contradictory motivations are coming into play. The man who does good things, but has a dark over-riding purpose--and this particular episode (season 1, episode 17) furthers that story and gives us an explanation we've long been lacking, while still leaving mystery.

Cisco (Carolos Valdes) has way more personality than the science guy is usually allowed. And he's a male character allowed to be emotional!

I wish I could love the other characters as much. But the women in this show. Gah! Have these writers ever met a real woman?

Caitlin Snow, science girl (played by Danielle Panabaker) isn't outright offensive, but she's also not very interesting. When it's time for the science support team to act, it's always Cisco's skills that save the day. She's supposed to be a brilliant scientist in her own right, but we never get to see her be one. She's just monitoring and communicating, supporting, but not actively problem solving. She might as well be the secretary in a 1950s show. The best she gets is a little heart to heart talk with Barry from time to time. Even when we brought her long lost back-from-the-dead beau in, they still only gave her an emotional range of "bravely not crying" to "crying."

And Iris. Good G-d, I can't stand Iris West (played by Candice Patton). The writers have done women the world over a disservice in making the object of Barry's affection a selfish woman who toys with the emotions of others. I think I'd like her better if she was aware of her manipulations and doing it on purpose, but no, they don't even give her that. She's not manipulative because she enjoys it or as some kind of power play. It's supposed to be unconscious.

She's so blind to the inner workings of her own heart, that she seems TSTL (too stupid to live). She reminds me a lot of Bella from the shiny vampire series…and I hated her, too. Good people just don't string other people along like that--they confront the feelings or they cut off contact. If I were writing this show, Barry would realize that any number of women would be better for him than Iris and move past his little boy crush for good.

And the way the men in the show (Dad, Barry, and Boyfriend) condescend to her by lying to her and misleading her under the guise of protecting her because they love her…what year is this again? They might as well pat her on the butt and tell her her not to worry her pretty little head about man stuff.

The portrayal of women isn't the only flaw in the show, unfortunately. There are also huge plot holes, all the time. Like, if the Flash just "flashed" he could win the day, but for some reason, he just…doesn't. As a superhero writer myself, I recognize that it must be difficult to write good challenges for a speedster character, but there have been many cases where it felt like the writers phoned in the plot when they were on a bender on a fraternity reunion weekend, ignoring completely obvious solutions to the problem and hoping you wouldn't notice through the haze of relationship drama.

That's why I was so thrilled with Season 1, Episode 17: Tricksters. For once, it felt all right. It was so good! In a show that's all about the breaking of the fourth wall and meta-moment Easter eggs, this episode was amazeballs.

So, first off, we've got Barry's dad, Henry, played by John Wesley Shipp who played the Flash in the 1990s series. He's been there the whole series, but he gets more screen time in this episode to enjoy that meta-goodness. Then, we've got special guest Mark Hamill as The Trickster. Mark Hamill played the Trickster in the 1990s show, too. They even work in footage from that 1990s performance in some stills and showing his costume.

And the very very very best part?

Mark Hamill, in his best villainous whisper, honed from years of voice work in superhero cartoons, references his Star Wars history at the same time by announcing, "I am your father!" I thought my geek heart would burst with joy!



If only all the episodes could be this good! So much potential…so not fully realized.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#IWSG: The Ups and Downs of Anthologies





I had a strange experience this month. I got published and didn't know it had happened. I only found out the book was out three weeks after its release, and even then, it was kind of by accident.



The publication was a short story in an anthology. I love anthologies, both as a reader and a writer. They are like sampler platters and gateway drugs into other books and authors. You can try a lot of different things for a low investment of time and money, since the pieces are shorter. I've discovered more than one writer I love to read this way.

But anthologies, I'm learning now that I've been published in a few, are complex critters, even more so than novels, because they require the cooperation and coordination of so many different people. To publish a novel, there's just the one writer to worry about and whatever team of professionals gets brought in (editors, artists, publishers, proofreaders, etc.). An anthology has all those folks, plus several different authors to work with.

So, I thought it might be fun to share my adventures in anthologies so far. It's an uncertain process that can definitely bring out all your insecurities.

The very first anthologies I was ever in were compilations. Those were quite painless. Basically, the publisher had already acquired the rights to publish the piece in a magazine AND in a compilation anthology at the same time. My work was included in a couple of poetry anthologies this way including Bearing Witness, a collection of poetry by teachers about teaching. For these, I had to submit my work, but getting into the book was a bonus publication, nothing that required additional effort on my part. 

I've also been in a couple of group-produced anthologies. What I mean by that: collections produced by the members of an already existing group. IWSG has done a couple of these (I had an essay in the The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond). My critique group worked together to put out a collection with one short story from each of us: The Seven Story House. Classes I've been a part of have sometimes put together a book as well. The amount of effort those have taken for me depended on the project and what level I was in charge at. 

As I seek to gain more publication credits, I've been watching for open call anthologies. Here, I've had mixed experiences. A lot of times, these anthologies are really small productions--like a one-person or one family small publisher. So, while it's easier for an unknown writer to get a piece accepted into them, it's also really easy for the projects to fall apart. All it takes is one life crisis to take down a project when the team working on it is so small. One that I was super excited about ended up being abandoned all together. Another one that I thought was a longshot ended up being produced and is selling well. Just goes to show you never can tell, I guess. 

For these, I submit my work, sign the contract and take the payment (if there was one--sometimes you're paid in a share of the profits, if there are any, or you're participating for exposure or charity) and hope for the best on the book coming out. There can be long communication gaps and delays that can leave you doubting that the editors liked your work. That's the story of the Theme-Thology: Mad Science, the one that came out without my knowing it had. HDWP is a one-family kind of small press, and, given the troubles that descended upon them, I'm pleasantly surprised that the book actually came out, and don't really blame the editors for failing to get it out with fanfare and trumpets. It was an act of love and devotion that they pulled the project together in the end.

Now I'm working on a novella for an invitation call. These are pretty awesome because there's little doubt that my work will be accepted and published. After all, the publisher/organizer contacted me and asked me to contribute something. They must already like my work. My first one of these was put out by the same publisher who does my novels. Curiosity Quills put out Indomitable Ten to showcase all the superhero and super-villain writers in their stable and give us a chance to get some cross promotion by attracting each other's audiences. The one I'm working on now is for a charity anthology and I've got one more on my writing schedule for August. 

So, there you go: my writing life in anthologies. It's a varied landscape. What experience have you had with anthologies? Do you like reading them? 
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For #IWSG this month, we were asked to respond to this prompt:  What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

Defining my "very first" piece of writing as an aspiring writer would mean digging through childhood crates at my mom's house, so I think I'll talk about my first novel. I "finished" His Other Mother in 2012. It was the first book-length work I ever completed. It's been around submission land off and on ever since, with some interest but no contract. I still believe in the book and its potential for finding a readership, but I'm not investing that much energy in it right now because my superhero stuff is selling and has my passion right now. After its most recent rejection, I've shelved His Other Mother for a bit. I think I've learned a lot about writing since 2012 and I plan to give the book another revision before I send it out again. But, that's low on my priority list for right now, so it may be a while until it happens. 

If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fan Girling: Stranger Things



Stranger Things is a new Netflix Original series that I plowed through this week (G-d I love summer vacation!) and there's so much I love about it. Obviously, I'm the target audience. I'm 45, which means I remember the early 1980s setting very well, having spent puberty there myself. I was a huge Stephen King fan during the same time period, and felt at home as soon as I saw the fonts in the title sequence. I'm still a fan of weird tales and all things supernatural in fiction.

This show really delivers. Without getting too spoilery (I'll try to stay relatively spoiler free throughout this article), there's a central mystery involving shady and spooky stuff. There are three groups of people working on the problem, and all of them are ill-equipped in different ways to be the hero the story needs. It was beautiful how the story balanced the three groups: 



The adults: Joyce Byers (played by Winona Ryder) and Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour). They both come to believe in the supernatural explanation pretty easily, but they are both adults easily dismissed by others. Joyce has a history of "anxiety issues" and public hysteria surrounding an ugly marital history. You can see that her position in the town wasn't one of dignity and respect even before she started trying to talk about what was happening in her life. Hop has a history of grief and alcoholism and any strange behavior on his part has people wondering if he fell off the wagon. They're perfect in their unreliability. The "no one will believe us so we're on our own" vibe the story needs. 


The Teenagers: A classic misunderstood loner, nice girl, and popular bro trio. But all of them are deeper and more nuanced than you would have seen in an 80s show. I was pleasantly surprised by the character arc of the "bro" in particular. They come to believe in the big bad a little more slowly, drawn into it by younger siblings (for two of them) and the disappearance of another teenager. Our loner boy, Johnathan Byers (played by Charlie Heaton) wants to protect his mother and step up into a father-protector role that he's not quite ready for. Nancy Wheeler (played by Natalia Dyer) is dismayed when ordinary teen drama about jealousy and who's cheating on who complicates her monster hunting. Steve Harrington (played by Joe Keery) transitions from a boy-who-only-wants-one-thing into someone who admits his wrongs and makes amends, someone who can be a real ally. They add the "we can't just sit here and do nothing" recklessness element. 


The children: Mike Wheeler (played by Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (played by Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (played by Caleb McLaughlin) are a group of middle school D&D players, along with their friend Will Byers (played by Noah Schnapp). They are smart, independent, and capable kids, but also imaginative and knowledge (through D&D) about monsters. When Eleven "El" (played by Millie Bobby Brown) comes into their lives, they are the quickest to realize that there's more to her and to the central mystery of the story than it appears on the surface. In classic kid mode, they (like the adults) are sure no one will believe them, so they take matters into their own hands. The scenes where the kids are frantically riding all over town on their bikes following leads and sleuthing are straight out of things like ET and the Goonies in their nostalgia and tension. 

It's only eight episodes, so you don't need too much time to see the whole season, and it ends in a beautiful place, with plenty of possibility for future story, but feeling finished enough that you won't feel frustrated or cliff-hangered. So, if you're looking for a good, tense, spooky summer show, I recommend this one!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Deep Talk: Or Why I Love Fan Conventions

Me with Angela Pritchett at the Southern Voices Book Launch Party. Picture by Leona Wisoker of The Scribbling Lion.
So, I just got back from Con-Gregate, a small sci-fi/fantasy convention in High Point, North Carolina, where I was a guest author (You can read about what I was doing there here and about the con itself here). I knew I was going to have fun, and my expectations were exceeded. There's nothing like spending time with people who love the same things you are passionate about. And--hey, bonus! I sold some books, too.

I was thinking about what makes time at a con so great. After all, there's a lot about a con experience that is hard on me. There's seldom enough quiet recharge time for an introvert like me. Or at least you have to choose whether you'll take the time for personal recharge or the opportunity to connect with like-minded folk (never an easy choice).

It costs money and I'm a schoolteacher in North Carolina, so I don't really have any of that. (As a guest author, usually my con fees are waived, but I will still need to get myself there, pay for a place to sleep and buy food and drinks).

If I'm to attend, then I have to rely on others (my husband and sister, usually) to take over the things I would normally have been doing--giving my kids rides, walking the dog, feeding people, etc. When you're a "giver" sort of person, it can be hard to be the one receiving help. I have to fight the guilt over being a little selfish and taking this time for me and my writing career.

But, still, even with all the cons of cons (ha! I amuse me) I *love* going to cons.

I was sitting in a session given by AJ Hartley, a Special Writer Guest of the con, called "What Can Genre Authors Learn from Shakespeare?" when I realized what it is. It's the level of discourse.

In my ordinary day to day life, I teach middle school. Some of my colleagues and students are brilliant shining minds that dazzle and challenge me, but a lot of them aren't. Not all of them are there because they want to be or because they love what we've come together to do. In fact, how few of them want to be there is a little depressing when you consider that I got into teaching, in part, to share my passion for learning and books.

But, as I sat in that session, I realized with a kind of rush that I was in a room of 30 some odd people (and some of us are really odd people) who love both speculative fiction AND Shakespeare. People with passionate opinions about things like whether the ghosts are really there in Macbeth and Hamlet or are just in the minds of the haunted.



Over the course of my weekend, I was part of conversations about moral boundaries in superhero stories, what white straight people writing more diverse characters need to consider, what constitutes cultural appropriation, why representation matters, what tropes serve stories well and which ones are offensive, advantages and disadvantages of different paths to publishing, why gender and race are more than check-box categories, and the difference between true (nonfiction) and heart-true.

My TBR list which is already longer than the time I will probably be on this earth grew by leaps and bounds, as did my list of shows to watch, music to explore, clothing to buy, places to go, and stories to write. It reminds me of the best moments of college.

It's worth the introvert coma I'll probably be in all this week just to talk this deeply for a few days. It really is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest Post: Rena Rocford: Of Pens and Swords


Thanks for letting me invade the blog, Samantha! Today I’m talking about how we chase our dreams. In my newest book, Of Pens and Swords, the Main Character, Cyra pursues her dreams with a dogged stubbornness. She’s determined to make the Olympics, and she sacrifices everything on the way, even her own heart. This, of course, leads to trouble, and if you want to, you can read more about it in the book. We’re here to talk about how you can chase your dreams without running yourself and your friends into the ground.

Here it is Rena’s Guide to Chasing and Catching Rainbows (insert Kermit the Frog song here)

Have a goal. Congratulations, you have a dream! No, I’m not being mean here. There are thousands—millions—of people in the world who don’t have a dream. They don’t have this thing you’ve found that burns in your mind. Now do yourself and everyone around you a favor: WRITE IT DOWN. Sometimes, we get lost along the way, so it’s important to write your dream down. This way if it changes, you’ll know. You’ll be able to point at it and say “this is my dream.” Excellent: Target Acquired.

No I in Team. I know, this is so cliché it almost hurts, but the truth of the matter is that you’re gonna need support. If you have a significant other, explain to them what your dream means to you. You’re going to need to prioritize your life and you’ll never get anywhere with your dream if it isn’t on your list. If you don’t have a significant other, enlist your friends and family. Most of them will be happy to help however they can. Don’t assume they’re just “being nice.” Many people would love to help you with your dream (hint: this is why it’s useful to have it well defined, so you can explain it to others when recruiting them to your dream).

Sometimes, There’s No I In Team Because I Is Off Quietly Working Hard While Team Is Busy Having A Party. You want to achieve your dream? Then you’re gonna have to do a ton of work, and no one is going to make sure you put your nose to the grind stone. You’re going to have to be the one duking it out with that voice in your head that says things will be fine after a donut and a Netflix binge session. There is a component of sacrifice to your dreams, no doubt about it.

Victories Are Planned. This is important because you’ll need to know something about your dream if you want to make it work. Planning out how to get your dream can sometimes fill in the gaps between “I’d like to be a writer” to having actual books in your hands with your name on it.

No Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy. I’m glad you have a plan, now, remember that you have to be ready to discard it at a moment’s notice, bend it for the crazy things that crop up in life (deaths, births, accidents, etc.). This doesn’t mean you aren’t going to stick to the plan, but it does mean that you might need to revise the plan at the drop of a hat. Semper Gumbi.

Change is Constant. Or give yourself room to change your dream. If you outgrow your dream, that’s okay. You can quit. So you had a dream to write a novel, and you’re five years in and you haven’t written chapter 1 yet. Don’t sweat it. Find a new dream and move on. This one doesn’t seem to be for you, and that’s okay. You can also take a break and come back.

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day. Sadly your dreams will not come true quickly. There will be delays and setbacks. There will be bumps in the road and your process. Give yourself time. Forgive yourself for the crazy feeling that you have to hurry up. This isn’t a race, and there’s no ribbon at the end—unless you were dreaming about winning races, in which case, get a move on it buddy.


If this seems like something you’ve seen before, it’s because you have. There’s a ton of luck in success. A ton. But the people who find that magical cross section of talent, effort, and luck all put in the effort. The other two factors are completely out of your control. Good luck out there!



Seventeen-year-old Cyra Berque wants two things in life: a date with Rochan and a chance to fence at the Olympics. But people with one hand don’t normally fence, and girls with big thighs don’t get the boy. Knowing that she wants to make the Olympics, Cyra’s coach sets her up with another coach, one who could take her all the way to the top, but the new coach costs more. Feeling her dreams slipping out of reach, Cyra agrees to tutor a ballerina with a rich father and a D minus in English. It’s triple the pay and triple the pain. The ballerina isn’t interested in passing classes―she wants Rochan, and she’s promised she’ll turn her D minus into a full-fledged F if Cyra doesn’t help her win the heart of Rochan.



Buy it now on Amazon!



About the author:
When Rena Rocford isn’t taking over the world one book at a time, she can be found living out her mild-mannered life, wearing out dance shoes, raising a herd of pets, and enjoying her time with her family in beautiful Northern California.
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