Author Interview with Mystery Author Chris Asbrey

Today I am interviewing mystery author Chris Asbrey whose novel, The Innocents,  will be released April 19! The book is available for pre-order on Amazon. Get it here. 

About The Author

Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office. She has produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog and been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

‘The Innocents’ is most definitely part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’ plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Emotional upset for sure. My last book took me a year to write as I was distracted by my husband being injured in an accident and my mother-in-law passing away from a long illness. I was very lucky to have a lovely mother-in-law. She is sorely missed.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve met many wonderful people on this journey and I’ve found them to be an incredibly generous and open community. I’d really encourage new writers to reach out and make contact. Not only will you find that they share resources, but you’ll probably make all kinds of new friends too. There are too many to mention but Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier deserve a special mention. Both have been so supportive and inspiring to a brand new writer and have gone the extra mile in helping me cross over so many barriers. Kit introduced me to her publisher after reading my work and helped me out of the slush pile. Joanie helped to point me towards the various groups which help a new writer with marketing and publicity. Not only that but she actually made up some advertising material and told me to ‘get my swag on.’ I was being far too Scottish—reticent and unwilling to look like I was bragging by saying my book was good. Both ladies have been incredible and I can’t thank them enough. Read their books and you’ll soon see how lucky I was to be assisted by them.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 

Lol, maybe a giant sloth? Or one of those dogs or cats which go viral for bumping into glass doors or falling off things?

How do you select the names of your characters?

As I write 19th-century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

That would be either the Pope or the Queen – on a protection duty. When the Pope visited Scotland I was the police officer at the bottom of the aircraft steps. We then moved with him into the city. As a fun aside, the glass-covered vehicle he used was nicknamed the Pope Mobile by the press. The crowds were all still there when we returned to the airport in the Pope mobile without him. We stood in full uniform waving flowers out the top to cheering crowds as we drove the full length of Prince’s Street in Edinburgh (the big main street in Scotland’s capital city). The crowd cheered us and waved flags as we passed. Only a Scottish crowd could hail a car full of police officers like that. Great fun.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 

Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up, used as disguises in the book, began to flourish right around the period the books are set in. Lighting had improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary stuff previously only lit by candles. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been playing with the characters for about ten years, but work and life got in the way. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.

What inspires you?

Often fact is stranger than fiction, so I’ll start with real crime or criminals. I‘ll then change it to ensure that even people familiar with that particular crime can’t guess whodunit. The stories are inspired by real crimes and people but they are not a memoir. They are stories where everything is historically possible. It either happened or could have happened.

How did you come to write The Innocents?

My grasp on the methodologies used by law enforcement, when applied the law in day to day enquiries in the days before technology was available, as well as historic weaknesses and blind spots in the both the legal and court systems, make for an authentic backdrop to the characters.

I was always a voracious reader, my mother teaching me with flashcards at the age of two, and graduating to the adult section of the library about the age of ten. I easily finished three books a week for years and was lost without one. Mysteries were a real love and I consumed the works of writers old and new constantly. The one thing I always wanted to do was to write but never had the confidence or time to do more than dream about it.

As a child I loved to run lines with my actor father when he rehearsed, and peeked in on the parties full of creative people singing, dancing, telling jokes, performing and discussing the issues of the day. Childhood taught me that creativity was something you do, not something you passively watch. That carried over to a love of singing, professionally and with choirs, as well as playing some dodgy fiddle music, alongside far better musicians who either made me sound okay or drowned me out entirely. Either way I managed to carry it off for a bit and even bagged a musician husband.

I first became interested in the female pioneers in law enforcement when I joined the police in Scotland. History has always held a draw and the colorful stories of the older officers piqued my interest, making her look even further back.

The very first women in law enforcement had been in France, working for the Sûreté in the early 19th century. They were, however, no more than a network of spies and prostitutes, the most infamous being the notorious ‘Violette’. Now there’s another story which needs to be told!

The first truly professional women in law enforcement worked for the Pinkerton Agency, and they were trained by the first female agent Kate Warne, an ex-actress and an expert in working undercover. Kate Warne was an expert at disguise, adopting roles, and accents. She was said to be daring and able to pass her characters off, even in close quarters. In the only known photograph of her she is dressed as a man. This was a skill set my childhood had prepared her to understand.

These women were fully-fledged agents, with their skills being held in high regard by Alan Pinkerton who once said, “In my service you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.”

I started to wonder why one of the female agents couldn’t be a Scottish Immigrant. After all, Alan Pinkerton was one. He came from Glasgow. Being a Scot in another land is something I know well. They do say you should write what you know.

My work has taken me all over the world, but working in the USA and visiting the places where these women worked deepened my passion for finding out more about how they lived. I also researched the tools and equipment available to them at the time. Connections to police and Home Office experts allowed me to research the birth of forensics with people who knew their subject intimately.

The topic for ‘The Innocents Mystery Series’ simmered in the background for years, and all the time I was researching more and more deeply into the period. I love the rapid pace of innovation and invention in the 19th century. Nothing pleases me more than finding spy gadgets available at the time which were invented far earlier than most people would think possible.

Work and life got in the way of the books being anything more than an idea until I was suddenly grounded by a serious accident. The enforced leisure time of recuperation focused my mind and the old dream of writing resurfaced. It started as a short story which took on a life of its own when it grew and grew—then grew some more.

Eventually, ‘The Innocents Mysteries’ evolved and I found the perfect home for it at Prairie Rose. This is my first foray into fiction. I have produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. I was Media Trained by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. I have also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

I run a blog which explores all things strange, mysterious, and unexpected about the 19th century. It was a huge compliment to be told that another writer finds it a great resource. The link can be found below.

I live with my husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. Another move is on the cards in 2108 to the beautiful city of York.

Link to book (Click here)

Blog which includes things obscure and strange in the Victorian period     http://caasbrey.com/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/CAASBREY

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/mysteryscrivener/

Facebook group for The Innocents Mystery Series 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/?ref=br_rs

Ignore the Cynics – Be Who You Are

“…I want you to remember this: the world has never been changed by people who are apathetic. It takes ZERO courage to be a cynic. Keep dreaming. Keep creating. Keep leading with your heart.” ~Marie Forleo

I came across this quote in one of the emails I get from Marie Forleo, a personal development and business coach whom I follow.

A cynic is “a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view.”

Marie is right. It does take ZERO courage to be a cynic—to criticize, to judge, to disapprove of people trying to live their dream or make something of or for themselves, while they do nothing. And, “to minimize selfless acts or disinterested points of view?” There is no pleasing these people I tell you.

Have you ever encountered a cynic when it comes to your writing? I’m sure I don’t even have to ask the question because it happens all the time. I’m sure you’ve been faced with the opinions of friends, associates, and even family members who think you are just “indulging yourself” or you are “deluded” into thinking you can make something of your writing.

I say to you dear writer, consider the source.

Most cynics don’t appreciate that writing is hard work; that if the writer doesn’t love writing for writing’s sake, it will be difficult for them to finish anything or make headway with getting an agent, or publisher, or even publishing themselves. Long gone are the days of the glorified “genius” who sits at his or her desk all day long, working on their tome and nothing else. Today, writers must not only write, they must find their own editors, do their own marketing, and find their own audience. Unfortunately, it’s not just about the writing anymore.

Cynical looking manBut, even taking that into account, most writers I’ve come across take on these monumental tasks because writing is part of who they are. They feel most comfortable expressing themselves through the written word. They desire a connection with others through their written message or stories. Whether they write fiction or non-fiction, it is their desire to understand human nature, research what motivates people, touches them, completes them. Most writers are always asking the questions WHY and HOW in order to reach people. I think that makes them extraordinary and compassionate. Not selfish.

If a cynic or two, or three, or more, have ever squashed your writing dreams—don’t give them that kind of power. Remember you are the courageous one, putting yourself out there, asking the hard questions, daring to connect with and help people. Doing the work. Take comfort in knowing your words, your message, and your passion matter.

You may not make a ton of money, or become famous, or be considered a creative “genius” but you are reaching out to people. You can touch people, help people, and influence people with your writing. Let the cynics be cynical and stew in their own negativity. You know the truth about who you are and what you do, while they only think they do.

Like Marie says, “Keep dreaming. Keep creating. Keep leading with your heart.” Your existence will be much happier and much more fulfilled.

 

 

 

Create Your Own Writing Space

Do you have your own writing space? A place dedicated to your writing life?

If not, I suggest you find one or create one. A place that is all your own, where you can sink into your writing self without any disturbances or distractions.

As I wrote about in my article “The Importance of Ritual for Productive Writing,” having a set time and place for your writing is important. Once we have a place and a space physically and emotionally, it will be easier for us to go to that space and place to get some writing done.

I met a woman at a writer’s conference a few years ago who was struggling with her writing. She worked nights, full time, had an adult child and grandchild living at home, and a husband who worked at home. Do you see where I’m going here? The woman had no space to herself, no place where she could retreat from her responsibilities. So, I asked her questions about her house. Was there any place she could go to be alone? She mentioned a small attic room with a window seat. She said when she had time, she would sometimes go sit in that window seat and read. I suggested she put a small table or desk near the window and take her laptop up there and see how it worked.

I got an email from her several months later and she explained how she’d taken up the entire room–painted it, redecorated it, and put a lock on the door. And yes, she’d made incredible progress on her novel. Yay!

So, here’s a photo of my writing space. I thought about cleaning up my desk before taking the photo, but that just wouldn’t be real. This is how I work. I usually have a couple of books on my desk, (note Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach—wonderful for inspiration and to get me in the creative mindset.) I usually have my diffuser going, something to drink sitting on my desk, my teapot at the ready, papers everywhere.

Writing deskYes, my office is quite large but cozy. When we moved last year, I commandeered this room and my husband graciously (and thankfully) agreed. It’s my space, my sanctuary, my happy place. I have no excuse not to write.

If you aren’t able to find a place in your home, then make a ritual of going somewhere. I used to work at a local restaurant/café that had decent internet service. Sometimes it was hard to tune out the conversations going on around me, but I also found the vibe of the place inspiring. I’d get a pot of blueberry tea, find myself a nice cushy booth and settle in for a couple of hours. Sometimes I treated myself to lunch.

For a while, a friend of mine would come and join me. We would catch up for a few minutes, or brainstorm about our projects and then get to work. It was nice to be accountable to someone else. We helped each other keep focused.

To be a writer takes a lot of discipline, and when there are so many distractions in our busy lives, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated. Having a space where you can go and “retreat” can make all the difference. I hope you have a space to call your own for your writing—and if you don’t, maybe it’s time to treat yourself and make one!

 

Setting Intentions and Affirmations for Writing

Do you have writing and publishing goals? I certainly do. I have a list of them that I try to revisit as often as possible.

In the last two years, I’ve been working hard at fostering my personal development. I want to become more productive, more engaged with my work, more sensitive to others, more present in my everyday life. I want to be more in touch with who I am and what I have to offer. I want to have deeper and more meaningful relationships with family, friends, and my animals. I want to live more in the moment. I want to be the best person and the best writer I can be. Does this sound familiar to you?

But how do we attain the goals we have set for ourselves, with our writing and our life?

For me, setting intentions and affirmations have been life-changing. I was first introduced to the concept by Dr. Benjamin Perkus with his Aroma Freedom Technique about three years ago. This technique uses a special combination of essential oils and a guided step-by-step exercise that helps to free us from the emotional blocks that prevent us from living to our potential. At the start of each session, we are to set an intention, work through the process with the essential oils and at the end of the session, we create an affirmation, breath in a transformative type of oil, like Young Living’s Transformation or Highest Potential and set our affirmation.

You might wonder, what is the difference between a goal, an intention, and an affirmation?

A goal is something we want to achieve. Finishing our novel, becoming a famous blogger, becoming a best-selling novelist, losing 10 pounds.

An intention is an “I am” statement or an “I have” statement that we create that feels, shows, and tastes like once we’ve achieved our goal. The intention is the overarching statement that reveals what our life is like when the goal is achieved. “I have a million followers on Twitter.” “I am a best-selling novelist.” “I travel the world and am paid to write my experiences.” “I am fit and healthy.”

Affirmations are reminders that support our intention. “I make time for my writing every day.” “I engage with people on social media twice a day.”

Once you have set your intention and your affirmations, it is important to read these out loud to yourself every day. If you make it part of your ritual, as I discussed in my previous post, “The Importance of Ritual for Productive Writing,” after a week or so, it will become part of your daily repertoire. It will constantly remind you of the awesome person you are and the incredible life you will have when you meet your goal.

Natalie Ledwell, in her Activate the Law of Attraction course on Udemy, asserts that if you put this type of energy out into the world, set your intentions and live by your affirmations, God or the Universe will answer you. By using the power of your mind, you can create your own reality and achieve any goals that you set for yourself. Like attracts like. If you put out into the world your positive energy, you will receive that positivity back.

So if you’ve set a goal to be a best-selling author, or a popular blogger, or any kind of successful artist – define what that looks like to you. Set your intentions around what you want your world to look like, and write down your affirmations. Read them aloud to yourself on a regular basis. Achieve what you want to achieve.

You can do what you set out to do. Only you are holding you back.

The Importance of Ritual for Productive Writing

In the age of electronics, computers, social media, technology – life has become a great balancing act. We try to balance our work, our families, our social life, and our hobbies. Often, little time is left for our passion. Sometimes, we have to schedule time for ourselves and our art. In fact, it has become necessary to do so in order to complete or fulfill our passion.

I have had trouble recently with scheduling time for myself due to some family issues. In my life and in my world—as I am sure it is with you—family comes first. But, we also need to make time for ourselves and our passions, or we are not complete, and we are not able to be there as effectively for our other responsibilities.

The best way I have found to make time for my writing is to create rituals around it. I don’t stick to a strict schedule, but I find that using ritual helps me to make time every day for my writing. First thing in the morning, I think about what I am grateful for—it gets me into a pleasant frame of mind and helps me to tackle any of the tasks I don’t like doing. I often do a little meditating and then set an intention for the day. I also read the affirmations that I have created for myself to myself out loud. It’s best to read them to yourself in the mirror, but that isn’t always possible. Then I go on to do the “life” things I need to accomplish.

When it is time for me to sit and write, I get out my essential oils. I’ve been using essential oils for about two years now to settle, inspire, comfort, and focus me. I take a whiff of a couple and try to be open to which one is speaking to me – not literally of course—but which one fills me with good feelings and inspiration. Some of my favorite include Envision, Highest Potential, Joy, and Oola Balance from Young Living Oils. They are all high frequency, emotional oils and they just make me feel good. Grapefruit, Lemon, Peppermint, and Cypress are the single oils I like to use for creativity. Once I’ve picked the “oil of the day” I put some drops in my diffuser, put on some ambient music and sit down to write.

Other rituals I have used  to get the creative juices flowing are:

Freeform journal writing. I’ll write down whatever comes into my head no matter how crazy or disorganized—I just spew.

Write down 10 things I am grateful for. This puts me in a great frame of mind and makes me feel like I can conquer anything.

Read inspirational quotes from other writers.

Brainstorm with a writing friend.

Make a date to write with a friend.

Always write in the same space. I like to write in my office, but for you, it might be your dining room table, Starbucks, or your favorite tea house.

I’ve heard somewhere that to develop a habit, you must do the thing 12 times. Consistency is key. Once you have developed the ritual, you will find that your day is not complete without it–it will magically have worked its way into your daily life, and you will feel odd if you don’t complete the ritual.

Give it a try. Set a ritual around your writing. I hope you find it as comforting, inspiring and enlivening as I have.

 

Guest Blog Post – Rachel Dacus

I am so honored a pleased to bring you a  guest post from author Rachel Dacus, whose time travel romance novel, The Renaissance Club, was released in January!

In this post, Rachel shares with us what got her interested in writing and how reading led her to her dream of becoming an author.

How I Began to Want to Write

Writing is nothing but wanting to tell a story so much you actually learn how to. I had that desire at age ten. I blame my mother, who took me to Acre of Books in downtown Long Beach, California and encouraged me to pick out books. I found my books by color: a row of colorful, clothbound books written by a man named L. Frank Baum. I remember the word “Oz” was stamped in gold on their spines. It was a short hop down the Yellow Brick Road to the Writing Wishing Well, my source of all inspiration and aspiration to tell a good story.

Next came the colored fairytale books, notably the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The idea of a kingdom under my bed was so appealing that I began to imagine alternate kingdoms everywhere—in my back yard, down the block, in the ravine, over the hill.

Then came Nancy Drew. Mysteries! After all, everything in my world, and every kingdom I could imagine, was mysterious. At the age of ten, eleven, and twelve, there’s so much you notice and don’t understand. And the adults in your life are always telling you they’ll explain it all when you’re older.

My first novel was called The Prisoner of the Locked Room. It was 100 pages long! I can’t imagine what I wrote because I still didn’t understand that a mystery revolved around a murder. I don’t believe at that age I had yet heard of murders. I led a sheltered childhood. So, I wrote all around this mysterious locked room, with its nameless prisoner—why imprisoned? Who? I decided to figure that out later. But I also decided to better Nancy Drew, and devised twin girl sleuths! Double the fun, double the fancy clothes, double the mystery-solving! Now all I needed was an actual mystery.

I trace my love of literature to the lavish amounts of bedtime reading aloud my mother did. I learned to love words and stories so young. Hopefully, every child in the world can be read to. And I not only learned to love words, but to make them. I was the kid who brought a typewriter to fourth grade, so I could write a play for the class to enact. The Westward Expansion may never be the same, but the thrill of hearing my words and story spoken aloud is unforgettable. Thanks, Mom, for reading to me and teaching me touch typing—giving me a love of language and an important tool to write!

The Renaissance Club Media Kit

By Rachel Dacus

Fiery Seas Publishing

January 23, 2018

Time Travel Romance

May Gold, college adjunct, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.

But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend who is paying her way. She yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit, and when the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. Walking through the veil that appears, she finds herself in the year 1624, staring straight into Bernini’s eyes. Their immediate and powerful attraction grows throughout May’s tour of Italy. And as she continues to meet her ethereal partner, even for brief snatches of time, her creativity and confidence blossom. All the doorways to happiness seem blocked for May-all except the shimmering doorway to Bernini’s world.

May has to choose: stay in her safe but stagnant existence or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Buy Links

ISBN: 978-1-946143-41-9  ~  eBook  ~  $6.99

ISBN: 978-1-946143-42-6  ~  Paperback  ~  $16.99

Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~  Kobo  ~  iBooks 

~  Praise for The Renaissance Club  ~

Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.

The Renaissance Club shimmers with beauty, poetry, and art. Author Rachel Dacus sweeps her readers away to Italy with her, lifting the senses with the sights, sounds, and tastes of that stunning country; imparting her deep knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque art while immersing the reader in a gorgeously romantic story. This book is time travel at its best! — Georgina Young-Ellis, author of The Time Mistress Series

About the Author:

Rachel Dacus is the daughter of a bipolar rocket engineer who blew up a number of missiles during the race-to-space 1950’s. He was also an accomplished painter. Rachel studied at UC Berkeley and has remained in the San Francisco area. Her most recent book, Gods of Water and Air, combines poetry, prose, and a short play on the afterlife of dogs. Other poetry books are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau.

Her interest in Italy was ignited by a course and tour on the Italian Renaissance. She’s been hooked on Italy ever since. Her essay “Venice and the Passion to Nurture” was anthologized in Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience. When not writing, she raises funds for nonprofit causes and takes walks with her Silky Terrier. She blogs at Rocket Kid Writing.

Social Media:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

Finding Inspiration Within

For a writer, sometimes the scariest monster–the killer of inspiration–is the BLANK PAGE.

When we are trying to start something new, or finish something we’ve started in the past, finally committing and sitting down to write something can be horribly intimidating. Our inspiration dries up and cannot be found. At these moments, sometimes the best thing we can do is to walk away from the beast. Sometimes, in order to be productive with our writing, we need to step away from it and feed our soul.

What do you do to feed your soul? For me, I love to sit with my horses or go for a long trail ride. Sometimes, I like to work on something specific in the dressage arena or tackle that thing I have been avoiding to reach my equestrian goals.

Other times, I like to sit down to draw, or do crafts. In the past, I have spent time doing cross-stitch, embroidery, beading, and coloring when the words don’t flow. Doing tasks that require a different kind of concentration and focus often allow our subconscious to let go, to unlock and set free our imagination. The dam is broken and the river of thoughts and ideas that have been bottled up breaks free.

Recently, my father passed away. Dealing with the emotions of that loss, and all of the other stuff that comes along with the death of a loved one has made it difficult for me to get motivated to write. But in the sorrow, I’ve found inspiration. My father was a wonderful and brilliant man. He was a scientist and a painter—gifted with a combination of skills that many of us only dream about.

I think my father used his art as a way to keep himself inspired in his scientific work, and when he retired, as a way to keep his creativity alive. He was feeding his soul and creating beautiful things. Since his passing, I’m inspired to do the same. I feel more in touch with myself, more in tune with my feelings and emotions, and more sensitive to the world around me. This heightened sensitivity has helped me in the mourning process and has also helped me to find inspiration every day, in things great and small.

I’ve enrolled in a colored pencil “painting” class. The reason the instructor refers to the pencil work as “painting” is because the technique she employs–burnishing–makes the pencil drawings look like oil paintings. I don’t have the time or the talent to pursue oil painting like my father did, but I still feel like I can create something beautiful. And, in making that beautiful thing, I am feeding my soul, luring back the inspiration to work on my writing projects.

So when you are on a deadline for your writing, either your own deadline, or one that perhaps an agent or editor has set for you, and the beast of the blank page is looming, step away. Take a walk in the garden. Smell the roses. Spend time with one of your animals, either in activity or in stillness. Light some candles in the bathroom and take a bubble bath. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Meditate. Go for a run. Paint something. Do whatever it is that speaks to you to refresh your mind and your spirit. Then go back to the page and just start writing–anything for ten minutes–and voila! No more blank page.

You’ve slain the monster. Now go on and write your masterpiece!

Dealing with Dysfunction

I love this quote because it is so true.

How many times a day, week, or month do you say to yourself something like . . . “once I get things in order, I’ll start working on my book?” Or, “I just need to get through X, then I can work on my blog.” Or one of my personal favorites, “once I get this piece perfect, then I will share it with…”—whether it’s a blog post, a short story, a novel, or even an email to a friend.

Perfection is elusive, so why do we always try to capture it? Because it allows us to procrastinate living our purpose. We feel a need to have everything in order before we start to dream and create—to be who we really are instead of what we think the world wants us to be; the perfect wife, husband, mother, employee, employer. So how do we stop this cycle?

We can realize that we are only one step away from dealing with dysfunction, so lean into that premise. Work with what you have—don’t try to make things perfect before you jump into the moment, because the moment will slip away like a leaf floating downstream, out of reach. Start living your passion—whatever that is. Be in the moment, and appreciate what you have and what you are, today. Open your mind, your heart, and your soul to what God or the Universe is trying to give you. And most importantly, give thanks for your imperfections, your crazy busy life, and for that dysfunction right around the corner that makes you human.

Be who you are today.

 

 

 

 

Fear Series #4: Fear of Failure

Woman holding hands over face in failureFear of Failure. We’ve all faced it at one time or another. But, does it stop you from doing what you feel you are meant to do, or called to do, or simply want to do? Like writing that book you’ve always wanted to write. Or perhaps, sharing your experiences and stories in a blog. Maybe it prevents you from querying an agent, or editor, or diving into self-publishing.

The fear of failure can be immobilizing. It can prevent us from reaching our goals, and sometimes prevents us from setting goals. It can stop us from living our dreams and doing the things we want to do or need to do in life. It can also prevent writers and would-be writers from expressing their thoughts and feelings through their words, or sharing their message and stories with others.

What does failure mean to you? Maybe it means that others won’t accept you, or believe you, or like you. Maybe it means you will be laughed at or ridiculed. Maybe whatever it is you want to do won’t be perfect. (Is anything in life?) Maybe it means you might not get that agent or book deal that you want. Well, you might be right.

So then what?

You can either choose to give up in the hopes you will never fail again, (not possible) or you can accept your failure, learn from it, and see the opportunities that might arise from it.

Here are some tips I hope will help you confront and manage your fear of failure. The tips come from my experiences with AFT, (The Aroma Freedom Technique) some practical advice I’ve received from others, and from my experiences in dealing with my own fear of failure.

#1) As with the first step in AFT, we must set an intention.

This intention should be something you intend to do if you knew—beyond doubt—you wouldn’t fail. Write a book. Publish a book. Start a blog. Write a newsletter. Query your dream agent. Get the picture? Write down your intention.

#2) Write down what failure means to you, as mentioned above.

woman writing in journal

#3) Identify where that fear of failure came from.

Unsupportive or critical parents? A bad teacher? Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past where you failed and had difficulty recovering. Maybe you lost a job over your “failure.” In AFT we try to capture what the negative voice in our heads is telling us. Or, pick a moment in time when we had the same emotions of unworthiness or despair. Write down what you came up with.

#4) Next, write down the absolute worst thing that can happen if you “fail” at whatever it is you want to accomplish with your writing.

What will you lose? Did you really need it anyway? How long will this affect you? Forever? A couple of weeks, days? Be honest with yourself.

#5) Establish what you have control over.

You have control over what you do with your writing. You have control over what you wish to share. But, can you control what others think, say, or do? If you could, how would that be satisfying? Maybe if you are a narcissist it would be satisfying, but I know you aren’t!

#6) Understand that others have this same fear. Even extremely successful writers. The difference is, they’ve made the choice to not let their fear of failure hold them back. One of my favorite Ted Talks of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.” You can find it here. I hope you are as inspired by it as I am.

#7) Write down what positive things you’ve learned from failing – no negativity here.

Did it help you to change direction or try something different? Maybe it caused a falling out with someone who only brought you down or made you feel bad about yourself. Failing is an opportunity to better yourself, learn, reflect and plan. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone fails. It is what you do with that failure that counts.

 

 

Fear Series: #3 Fear of Revealing the Human Within

naked woman hiding in dark - fearing exposureFear of self-exposure and fear of rejection go hand in hand. In exposing our innermost thoughts and feelings through our writing, we are risking criticism, ridicule, and rejection.

Is fear of exposing your true self holding you back from writing your message or your story? It’s not an uncommon problem. When we write, we pour ourselves into the work. We leave some, or a lot, of ourselves on the page for all the world to see. This can be intimidating and overwhelming. When we think about who might read our work–our parents, our children, our colleagues etc., and what they might think of the work, or us, after reading it can sometimes prevent us from writing what we are called to write. Here are some things to keep in mind when you fear self-exposure.

1. You have control over what you reveal.

If you are writing a memoir or any other piece of non-fiction that is personal, it is important to know you have complete control over what you reveal. That said, be aware that what you are afraid to write about may resonate with someone else. If it is your aim to help others through your work, in exposing your experiences, good and bad, you may reach someone who is going through or may have experienced the same thing. You can be of service to that person. You can connect with that person in a profound way. Isn’t that what sharing your work is all about?

In fiction, we can “hide behind the curtain” so to speak. We can put ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences into the development of a character. We can also recreate experiences we’ve had, and unless we divulge it, the reader will never know if it was our experience or not. Still, if the emotions or experiences are particularly painful, it can often feel as if we are exposing a part of ourselves we don’t want people to see.

In writing my historical mysteries I often use people from my life to portray a character. Many of my antagonists have been crafted from people whom I didn’t like, who have done me or my loved ones harm, or who are just negative, not very nice people. I used to fear that if my work got published that person would recognize themselves and get their feelings hurt. I expressed this fear to a critique group once, and someone said, “they don’t see themselves the way you see them. They would never recognize themselves in the character.” That statement made complete sense to me. It also made me realize the people I used to create my antagonists were not “bad” people, they just exhibit bad behavior because of past wounds or their own negative experiences.

2. You are human and others will relate to what you expose.

We are often not alone in our embarrassments, our bad behavior, our negative thoughts and feelings. When we expose ourselves, either outright or through our characters, we are sharing our human nature. That is how our readers will connect with us. Also, it is important to remember, it’s not about you. When a reader picks up a book, they are looking for an experience for themselves, one they can relate to—the good, the bad and the ugly. You are simply providing the mirror of their own human experiences.

3. You won’t please everyone.

Will someone hate your work? Probably. Will someone love your work? Probably. This is the area where you have NO control. Just like you cannot control what people think of you, you cannot control what they think of your work. Writers and many other creative people often share the trait of wanting to be liked by everyone. Writers and artists are driven to do what they do, and they want people to like and accept what they do. This is something we cannot control, so we shouldn’t try. Do your best, put your words on the page, be proud of what you do. Don’t let the one or two naysayers crush your dream. Sometimes people love to find fault. Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about them.

4. Look at the negative things people say about your work with objectivity.

Try to view the criticism, and your work, as an observer. Take yourself out of the equation for a few minutes. Ask yourself, is this constructive or destructive criticism? If it is constructive, and you feel your work will improve by listening to the criticism, brush yourself off and learn from the experience. You have control of what you do with this information. If the criticism is destructive and makes you feel ashamed, put down, or threatens to make you quit writing, put it out of your mind. Forget about it and move on. If you can’t do this, distance yourself from the work and the criticism for two weeks. Go back to it and see if you feel any different.

Discerning between harsh, constructive criticism and destructive criticism can be difficult, because neither one feels very good. We all get destructive criticism from time to time. This goes back to tip number 3. Some people live to find fault. Consider the source and then move on.

woman smelling flower - no fear of exposure5. Celebrate the positive things people say about your work.

Take in the positive. Pick the positive flowers of what people say about your work, bundle it all up in a bouquet and water it often! Write those positive affirmations down in a journal, or better yet, write them on a sticky note and place it on your computer, or your bathroom mirror. Keep your rejection letters and highlight the positive remarks. Sometimes when we hear three wonderful comments about our work, and one terrible comment, we focus on the terrible one. Don’t let this play into your fear of self-exposure.

One of the best pieces of advice I have received about fear of self-exposure is to write your book, your essay, your blog post, etc. as if no one will read it. That is called writing your first draft. Then go back and decide what you feel most comfortable revealing, and what you feel the least comfortable revealing, and go from there. Good writing is re-writing. You have the power and control to share what you want.