Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wednesday's Writing: What If Your Name Really Was 'Famous Author'?

No, I don't mean what if you were actually christened Famous Writer, although I guess there would be some comedy value in that...
Something to think about from a situation I came across on Amazon recently. What if you're a writer who has the same name as a famous writer? Suppose your real name was Nora Roberts, Louise Penny, Harlan Corben, Barbara Erskine, J.K. Rowling?
Would you publish your books under your own name, as would be perfectly within your rights?
If your books suddenly started to sell like hot cakes, would you just think eh, well, that book was plenty good enough for stardom, after all, I sweated my heart and soul to produce it?
Or would there be a sneaky feeling in the back of your mind that maybe, just maybe, some of those sales were from readers who thought you were actually that Other Famous Writer?
This situation has been tickling my brain ever since I came across this when looking for the latest Stephen King book. Yes, I freely admit, I'm a Stephen King fan and have pretty much an automatic reaction to purchase his latest book.
Which is why I was shocked when, on Amazon, I noticed that my hero had apparently written a whole bunch of books I'd never heard of before. Wanting to add them to my King collection, I busily clicked on the covers. The books did seem kind of King-ish in style, but...I don't know. So I checked out the reviews.
What I didn't understand was how the books could have mostly one star and two star reviews. Was Stephen King losing his touch? Why had I never heard of these books before?
So I scrolled down to the actual reviews, to discover complaints from reviewers, readers who had looked at or bought the books, that apparently this was not the REAL Stephen King. At least, that's what the reviewers thought.
This Other Stephen King writes in a similar genre to the really famous one and his books certainly seem to be selling, but there seems to be a lot of ire among the reviewers. I'm not going to quote them here, because I think if this guy really has that Famous Writer name, he's probably entitled to use it. Just note that one book alone, Awaken, had 69 per cent one star reviews. Uhmmmm....no idea if these were about the quality of the writing or that fans of Stephen King were disappointed to discover these were not the kind of books they expected from Stephen King.
If that makes sense.
You can take a peek at that page here: http://www.amazon.com/Awaken-Stephen-King-ebook/dp/B01ACLW2KW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1461707007&sr=1-1&keywords=Stephen+King
I have no idea if there are other instances of this apparent name confusion, but I imagine it must exist.
So tell me, what would you do if you had a Famous Writer's name? Would you be comfortable writing under it, or disgruntled that people objected to you using your own name? Or would you simply choose another name and get on with your writing career?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday's Writing: Do You Talk Yourself Out of Success?


By Glenys O’Connell @GlenysOConnell
 
*This was first published two years ago, but I thought it was worth repeating!

“Argue your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.” #Richard Bach #quote

laoDo you talk to yourself? Most writers do – and we’re not alone. Most ‘Normal’ people talk to themselves, too. Not always out loud, but there’s that inner voice in your head that comments on just about everything you do, advises you, comes up with great (or not so great) ideas, comforts and inspires.

Or not.

Because lots of us have voices in our heads that talk us down. Sometimes they may even sound like someone in our past who has told us our ‘limits’. Your mother, another relative, a teacher, a friend, an employer, people who may have said things ‘for your own good’ or to ‘stop you getting big headed’. Perhaps people who were afraid to step out on Life’s High Wire themselves, and passed that fear on to you. Or people afraid they’d lose you if you became successful, or who were genuinely afraid you’d be hurt if you strove for high dreams and fell flat on your face.

guy on skateboardBut now that self-talk is firmly embedded in your mind. You want to write a book? It’s too much work…I’m not talented enough..who would want to read what I have to say…it’s silly, everyone would laugh….no-one from my social class has ever…I’m too old….

You want that beautiful home, that fulfilling job? You want love? Success? Happiness? A healthy inner voice cheers you on, tells you that you do deserve good things; but that negative inner voice will come up with all the reasons why it’s a bad idea, you don’t deserve it, who would love you anyway,. and why can’t you just settle for, well, second best?

Or fill in the blank here for what your little voice says:__________________________________

It may be a little voice, but it puts huge limits on you. It may help you stay within your comfort zone, but it doesn’t help you achieve the dreams that are in your heart.

Negative Self Talk Limits You.

Basically, your mind accepts what you tell it. If you say you can’t, well, you can’t.

Say you can, then that wonderful organ, your brain, will have all its neurons scurrying around for ideas and plans to help you do what you want to achieve.

never lose hopeOf course, it’s not that simple;sometimes you want something that just won’t work out for a number of different reasons that may be beyond your control. Funnily enough, if one dream doesn’t work out, your clever brain often comes up with a substitute dream much more suited to you, and do-able.

So, spend some time every day having a chat with yourself; tell yourself that you are a smart, caring, competent, deserving person.

It won’t be easy, it won’t be painless, but you can erase the limitations that experiences and other people have encouraged you to put on yourself. Talk nicely to yourself, be positive, and believe  that you can.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes. Write it out and hang it where you’ll see if often:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it – boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann von Goeth #quote

Glenys O’Connell is a trained counselor and the author of Depression: The Essential Guide and PTSD: The Essential Guide

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Monday Inspiration: I'm Not Pleased With You, Larry the Lump (Cancer Diaries)

Oh, my, Larry the Lump! You've done some mean things in your time, but this beats all! I am not at all pleased with you.
Since you were diagnosed at Stage Three last August, I have tried to look on you, not as a malignant creature, but as some of my own cells that are confused and disaffected. Good cells gone bad, you might say.
But there's definitely a mean side to you. Like the fact that you are a species that doesn't always or readily show up on a mammogram, so I went through all those uncomfortable boob-flattening mammograms, year after year, just so that I could feel safe from the likes of you. I actually felt I was taking care of myself, going through the necessary tests that would sound the alarm bells the moment just one tiny cell started to misbehave.
How innocent I was! How mean you are! No doubt you had a good laugh about that, Mr. Meanie.
Even my own doctor dismissed my anxieties about pain in the breast with the comment: "Oh, your mammogram was clear, so there's nothing to worry about."
It took a breast scan and a biopsy to decide just what you were. And MRI tests to keep track of you.
It's cold comfort to hear that if a professional didn't know this, it doesn't seem so dumb that I didn't know. Invasive lobular carcinomas can be difficult to diagnose as they are generally symptom free or have few symptoms, are difficult to feel and don't show any changes in breast shape until they've grown big and strong. Even when they can be felt, they don't necessarily show on a mammogram. They account for about 15 per cent of all breast cancers. Read more here.
Apparently Larry had been around for up to six years before being detected. That was the first nasty trick.
The second was the side effects in response to the drug I began to take to shrink him. Larry did not enjoy being on a diet (he has estrogen receptors and the drug blocked his daily intake so he was starving and even more mean.) This left me feeling more fatigued than before the diagnosis, with symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, memory lapses, occasional depression, etc.
But it seemed it was all going to be worth it. Larry had shrunk by about 70 per cent and it looked like I could do a lumpectomy, a much less radical surgery than a mastectomy or the removal of the whole breast.
That's where another mean trick came in - as he shrank, Larry broke into several smaller pieces, little Larrys, I guess you'd call them.
But they inhabit the same space that the large tumor did, and the odds of them all being removed, along with all possible cancerous tissue, plummeted.
So it's a mastectomy now.
That means an eviction for you, Larry.
No more warm and cozy nest.
I suppose, in a grim way, I have the last laugh.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Monday's Inspiration: What Are You Doing With Your Marbles?

Ah, New Year's. The time we make resolutions we probably won't keep, and then be disappointed in ourselves. Or maybe embarrassed because we told everyone what our resolutions were. Nothing like announcing you're going to lose thirty pounds this year and then being spotted slurping down a super-fattening dessert at a fast food place, while everyone knows that you've not lost an ounce - and why!
Many of us will make resolutions about working harder, seeking success - or more success - earning more money, or whatever seems to be necessary to help us get further, faster.
Have you ever thought that perhaps we neglect the fun experience factor? Sure, you may resolve to spend more time with your family, to exercise more, etcetera, and no doubt these are laudable goals.
But when put into the context of a Resolution, don't they sound just a little bit like work? Like an obligation? A duty? Lacking in the fun part of spontaneity? What about choosing a different route?
This blog by Lori Allen on Great Escape Publishing made me think. It's both sobering and inspiring.
What if you woke up every Saturday, knowing you were taking the day off from anything remotely like work, and just going to go out and grab experience quite spontaneously? Looking for fun without obligation?
Allen retells the story of the 1,000 marbles which, for the teller, represented every Saturday
remaining in his life if he lived to be 75 years old. Each Saturday he would take one of those marbles out of the jar, and seeing the dwindling number left behind, be inspired to have that one day as something he'd always remember.
Here's the link - read it. It may just change your attitudes. http://www.greatescapepublishing.com/1000-marbles-story-change-your-saturdays-from-now-on/
So, what are you doing with YOUR marbles?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Writer's Christmas Prayer


DEAR GOD, Jehovah, Allah, Goddess - sorry, I know You have many names and it’s my journalistic soul that wants to cover all of them. Forgive me if I get it wrong – I’m rushing the research a bit here.  I do appreciate Your taking the time to listen, as You have done so many times in the past. You must be extra busy with deadlines at this time of the year, because fires, floods, famines, storms, droughts, wars and general stupidity do not stop even in this holy season. With all that going on, I hope You can also find the time to celebrate with us the joy and peace that belong to this season.

There have been so many times when You have pulled this tattered manuscript of my life out of the heavenly slush pile, and even when Your reply has been a gentle rejection note, there is always been encouragement to go on using the talents You have loaned to me. You have forgiven the times I have been grouchy on life’s deadlines, when I failed to appreciate the wonder of the opportunities in new contracts  You have offered, and the many times I have ignored Your submission requirements in hopes that You would see past my mistakes into the willing prose of my heart.

Having said all of that, I feel selfish even asking for more, but here goes:

1)     It’s a bit of a clichĂ©, but I would join with so many, many others to ask You to give Mankind – and I say MANkind because the male of the species seems to be more inclined to conflict than we females, but maybe I’m biased – if You would just give them all a bit of a shake and tell them it’s time to make peace not war.

2)     Please ignore the mean things I said about the intellectual abilities of publishers or agents who rejected my work – I didn’t really want You to strike them. Honest.

3)      There are so many of Your people in need, hungry, homeless, afraid, in pain. Maybe You could inspire those of us who have so much to heed Your teachings and work towards a more equitable society. Perhaps You could even slip a little extra blessings into the Christmas stockings of those who have been courageous enough to stand up for what is right.

4)     Please forgive the times I’ve cursed at my computer; the technology You have given us is truly a blessing and it was just the heat of the moment;  I didn’t mean a word of it. Really.

5)     Of course, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t invest this prayer with a little personal self-interest. First, I want to thank You for all the people who have bought my books – the nice reviews always feel like a warm GodBreeze to my soul.

6)     Then maybe You could run to a dollop of forgiveness for all the times I left undone the things I ought to have done, and done those things I ought not to have done? Let’s not get into specifics now, eh? That would be a bit embarrassing and take up too much of Your time. We both know what they were. However, if you could see your way to making me a better person, and a better writer, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of help in getting through the edits for the next book, I would be very grateful.

 I can’t promise that I won’t screw up some more, but Dear Lord, I’m trying to be better.

Thank You. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Larry the Lump - More Famous Than Me? (Cancer Diaries)

It appears that Larry the Lump, that little knot of confused and disaffected cells that has nested in my left breast, is more famous than me. That is something I do hate him for.
Oh, I can accept that his appearance in my left breast is purely random. Sure, he doesn't actually mean any of the harm he has caused me. Nothing I or anyone else has done likely caused his existence.
I can live with the prospect of surgery soon; I can cope with the sometimes very debilitating side effects of the drug I am taking.
I can definitely enjoy the idea that Larry's estrogen receptoring little presence is being quietly starved of estrogen because of the treatment. Shrink and die, you little beast!
But what I hate him for is that he seems to have caught the imaginations of so many people.
Really? You ask.
Yes, indeedy.
My regular blogs, where I meander on about writing and life, usually enjoy the attentions of a few hundred readers.
But blogs where Larry is the star, we're looking into the four figure numbers of readers who log in to read his adventures. Yes, Larry is more famous than I!
Although there has been a kind of secondary benefit to me for blabber mouthing about this cancer, a lobular tumor that doesn't show up on mammograms.
I know that this concept, that there are breast cancers that the mammogram may not pick up, has been food for thought for quite a number of readers and friends. Indeed, some have sought further medical checkups. Sadly, at least one woman has been diagnosed with cancer after she insisted on a breast ultrasound after hearing about the symptoms that finally led to my diagnosis.
Strangely, many people have commented about my willingness to give Larry the Lump centre stage as I talk about this experience. The words courageous and brave have been used, and yet that's not how I feel.
For one thing, as a writer and journalist, I think that knowledge is power. If you know the possibilities, you can perhaps prepare or protect yourself from them. I know I was shocked to learn that all the mammograms I had had faithfully over the years had failed to pick up on what the oncologist says is a tumor that has been around for five or six years without detection.
I belong to a generation in which the word 'cancer' was never spoken. In my family home, if totally pushed, you might refer to the 'Big C', but never THAT word. It was as though mentioning it would bring the curse down on someone's head. Even the close relatives of people who had actually been diagnosed were advised by doctors not to tell that person he or she had cancer. It was such a scourge that people feared a victim - and that was the word used then - would commit suicide rather than face the odds of dying from the disease.
So I talk about cancer. Everyone I know knows, and hundreds more people who have never met me know. And there is a benefit for me, too - all the love and support, prayers and good thoughts I have received must surely be causing some kind of ripple in the ether, because so far my test results are looking good.
I can only repeat: if you have pain or discomfort in your breast don't assume that if the mammogram is clear there is no problem. Ask for further investigation.
And educate your doctor - mine told me there was nothing wrong because the mammogram was
clear. When I finally got a biopsy and MRI, the little beast was more than eight centimetres long and growing lustily on a diet of estrogen.
Even so, I still resent Larry's popularity. That he should be more famous than me!
Sometimes, even on his starvation diet, I think he's laughing....

NOTE: I was shocked to discover that there is actually another Larry the Lump mentioned in a blog by someone with throat cancer! And I thought I was so original! Here's a link to that other Larry: https://selfy0105.wordpress.com/

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday's Inspiration: What to Give the Writer Who Has Everything (In Their Imagination).

Have a writer on your Christmas gift list? Stuck for ideas? That’s not surprising, considering you’re dealing with a person who can have anything he or she wants – in their imagination, of course!
But buying for writer friends or family needn’t be a chore. And it needn’t be expensive, either. Of course, the latest word processing programmes, computer technology, a library full of books or a year’s rental on a retreat to a villa in France, would all be welcome gifts. Bear in mind that the latter could be very pricey indeed, because most of us writers are broke much of the time so you’d definitely have to throw in air fare and stock the place with food.
But for more realistic purposes, here are a few writer pleasing ideas.
1)     Fancy pens, pencils, cute notebooks, or other desktop gadgets. Sure, we know we’re in the age of high tech, but there’s nothing like the allure of a clean, virginal page or a fancy new gel pen.
 
2)     A really good diary with at least a page per day for notes. Or more than a page, to help keep track of word counts, deadlines, book signings, talk events, submission dates, etc.
 
3)     The online version of The Writer’s Market.
 
4)     The online version of Writer’s Digest
 
5)     A comfy cushion for the desk chair – you’d be amazed just how numb one’s posterior can get after a few hours of typing madly, butt in chair….
 
6)     One of those little desk puzzles, to give the brain a break from words. Careful with the choice, though – nothing too difficult. Writers are all too familiar with failure, and not being able to do the Rubik’s Cube, for example, can begin a slow slide into depression as fast as any rejection letter.
 
7)     A pair of those woolly fingerless gloves, for typing when the power is out – or has been cut off – and there’s no heat.
 
8)     Woolly socks with tops that will fit over flannel pajama bottoms.
 
9)     Flannel pajama bottoms.
 
10)  A gift card for Starbucks or Tim Horton’s, so that your writer won’t get black looks after sitting in the warm cafĂ© for hours, typing without buying…..


11)   Probably the very best gift for a writer costs nothing: Time. Yes, time to write without interruption is such a gift! Be a friend. Don’t take offence when your writer buddy rolls her eyes at your suggestions that the two of you go out, when you know she’s on deadline. Offer to take the kids for a couple of hours, cook a meal, pick up groceries, dry cleaning, kids from school. Don’t talk for hours on the phone. Listen when she needs a sounding board, otherwise give her some space.
 
Trust me, she or he will eventually emerge from the writing cave, eager and ready for human interaction again……one the writing is done. Until the next book, of course….