Monday, December 17, 2012

GOAL SETTING - The Zig Ziglar Way


With 2013 here, it' time to start setting goals for the new year ahead. But how to you go about it?

There is probably no better advice on goal setting than that of Zig Ziglar, who recently passed away in November at the age of 86 years old. He was a world-renown, motivational speaker who used easy-to-remember, homespun simplicity when he addressed an audience.

Born in Alabama, Zig Ziglar served in the Navy in World War II and later worked as a salesman in a succession of companies before he became a vice president and training director in Dallas, Texas. He is best known for his many books and seminars on topics that teach a person how to be successful, how to set goals, how to network, and how to be a top sales or marketing person.

“See You at The Top,” both a famous book and video, spells out the benefits a person can achieve from setting goals. Ironically, “See You at the Top” was rejected by some thirty publishers. 

Some of the benefits include: knowing, being, doing and having more; using your mind and talents fully; having more purpose and direction in life; making better decisions; being more organized and effective; doing more for yourself and others; having greater confidence and self-worth; feeling more fulfilled; being more enthusiastic and motivated; and accomplishing uncommon projects.

To reach the benefits above, Zig Ziglar set forth the “Seven Steps for Goal Setting.” These seven steps are used in adult classrooms, workshops and seminars all over the United States since their inception in 1975. 

1. Identify the goal or objective you want to achieve

2. Set a deadline and put a date on it.

3. List the obstacles to overcome

4. Identify the people or groups to work with

5. List skills or knowledge needed

6. Develop a plan of action

7) List the benefits – “What’s in it for me?”

Although it’s impossible to comment on all seven steps, defining a goal is certainly the first action step. According to Zig Ziglar, a goal is anything you can have, be or do. Have includes such things as a new car, home or boat. Be simply means your desire to be someone: a mayor, surpervisor, saleman, inventor, or writer. And do entails something you wish to do over a period of time such as improve your health, play a musical instrument, quit smoking, write a book, or develop a better relationship with someone. According to Zig Ziglar,

If you want to reach a goal, you must 'see the reaching' 
in your mind before you actually arrive at your goal."

What goals have you set for 2013? I'm working on my list and will give you a peek in my next post. Until then, have a great New Year.    


Friday, November 9, 2012

Second Helpings - A Collection of Holiday Short Stories and Recipes


From sweet childhood remembrances to fanciful solutions of family dramas to romantic relationships that begin--or end--during the holidays, SECOND HELPINGS is an anthology of stories and memories, but most especially of recipes. Our end-of-the-year celebrations are occasions that bring reunions with unforgettable feasts and that one special, treasured dish. At the end of each story, vignette, reminiscence, you'll find a recipe or collection of recipes that will make your next holiday memorable as well.

SECOND HELPING - A collection of short stories and recipes contains my short story, "Danny's Secret," which tells the plight of a sister whose brother died in the Gulf in 1990. Danny had a family heirloom as a good luck charm, a pearl ring, that was never returned with his personal effects. It had been carried by  his great grandfather in World War I, his grandfather in World War II, and his father in the Vietnam War. Twenty years later, Kay Holland is still searching for answers to its disappearance, especially since her mother is dying and requesting to see it.

SECOND HELPINGS has a series of tasty recipes, including my recipe for molasses cookies. Pick up a copy and read what a pearl ring and molasses cookies have in common. It's available in print and e-book formats.

Buy it now at  Second Wind Publishing

or at  Amazon.com


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Autumn Skipped Across Pennsylvania

Autumn skipped across our Pennsylvania mountains and left behind a trail of riotous color. Her hands brushed over the maples and birch, painting them shades of crimson, bronze, and rich butter-yellow. 

These are rare autumn days when the days are hot and the nights are cool, and the air is radiantly crisp and clean. Each morning, the rising sun creeps down the hills and glades, stretching itself in a lazy yawn, chasing away the fog, and turning trails and byways into a wondrous delight. 

 Along our paths and pastures, blue aster, goldenrod, and Queen Anne’s lace nod their heads while sumac stands boldly in a blaze of red. Beside our homes, marigolds and chrysanthemums defy the first frosts. If we’re lucky, that last rose of the season clings to its stalk and sends up a sweet memory of summer past.
 
These are days when we can hear the cry of the geese as they wing southward, the rustle of dried leaves beneath our feet, and the noisy crows in the cornfields. The drone of the bees gathering that last bit of summer nectar warns us the days will be shorter and the nights longer. Yet, we can’t help but embrace the soothing hum of crickets and night insects that lull us to sleep each night. 

Autumn has walked across our Pennsylvania mountains and spilled out all the seasonal smells like a rich perfume. This is time when red-cheeked apples and sweet wood smoke give off a familiar fragrance that is a harbinger of things to come. We can smell the earth—the dried cornstalks, the pungent aroma of woods and pine, and the musky scent of pumpkins and gourds. Along the fences, grapes on withering vines fill the air with an earthy bouquet.

But there’s a certain sadness to autumn. It’s a warning that the year is ending, that we’re  growing older and we’re maturing. It is a time to contemplate the reason for our being and for our purpose. It’s a time to be thankful for our lives, to re-evaluate our errors, to realign our goals, and to strive towards that which makes us happy . . . and our world a sweeter place. 




Monday, September 17, 2012

Help! Writing is NOT Exciting.

Someone once said the life of a writer is exciting. After all, all we have to do is sit down, come up with some creative ideas, string them together and crank out a story or novel. Sounds simple enough, right?

But what if the creative ideas aren’t there? What if getting the next load of laundry done is on our mind? What if we’re thinking about taking Aunt Martha shopping next Tuesday? What if we’re worried about our child and his next soccer game? What if everything keeps turning up and turning us away from the computer and the blank screen?

Is that what we call writer’s block? Is it avoidance? Or is it just our brain telling us it’s time for a break?

I’m throwing all my loose change on the last choice. For the past few weeks I’ve been stonewalled on where I’m headed with a sequel to my novel, Red Fox Woman, which is a mystery, romance and western. I have already written nine chapters, have a rough outline, but I can’t seem to get myself in that writer’s zone. You know, that place where the words flow like a bubbling stream, carrying you away into the fantasy world of your characters?

At first, I decided I’d blame it on the weather, the beautiful summer, my many travels, and a host of other things that can’t respond to or rebut my accusations. Now, I’ve decided that I’m just distracted, somewhat weary, even annoyed with everyday life and the things which constantly need my attention.

So this week I’m not going wait until January 1st. I’m making a fall resolution—to focus on my writing. Now all I need is for someone to tell me how to find the willpower and determination. How do I rekindle the excitement? Is there some sort of elixir I can take? Please give me your thoughts.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle While Chasing Your Dreams - Part II


We create our future by what we dream today.

1. Establish a regular exercise routine. Stress reduces chemicals that make you feel tense. Exercise helps move these chemicals through your body. Try for just twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, and choose a fun activity you’ll enjoy and stick with. Consider running, hiking, bowling, walking, swimming and water exercises, to name a few.

2. Get plenty of rest. Most people need seven or eight hours of sleep to feel renewed and refreshed. A warm shower or bath before bedtime helps you to fall asleep quickly.

3. Improve your communication skills. Learn to ask for help when you need it. Defuse misunderstandings before they occur by talking things over with your coworkers, spouse, children, relatives and friends.

4. Make time for decision-making. Give yourself plenty of time when making important life changes. When we make a snap decision, and then regret it, our quick decision only causes tension and stress. But remember, procrastination also can cause stress!

5. Eat a balanced diet. Stock up on whole grain breads, rice and pasta. Include lots of fruits and vegetables. Add calcium in the form of milk, yogurt and cheese. Grab your protein from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs or nuts. Limit your intake of fats, oils, sweets, caffeine and alcohol.

6. Learn to accept and adapt to change. The only thing permanent is change. Learn to accept change as a fact-of-life. Whether you welcome or dread changes, they can be extremely stressful unless you learn to adjust to them. Take time to recover, refocus, and regenerate during a major change such as a promotion, relocation, parenthood, divorce—or any change that causes you undue concern.

Have fun chasing your dreams, but remember you must stay healthy to accomplish it. A writer friend of mine says it the best. You have to love her humor:

     "Don't be unhappy if all your dreams don't come true. . .
     just be thankful your nightmares don't!"

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle While Chasing Your Dreams

                      Climb high, climb far;
                      Your aim the sky, your goal the star.

1. Believe in your ability to cope. Embrace your strengths and hidden dreams. Remind yourself that you can influence the outcome of events in your life. Create action plans to address problems at work and at home. Find a way to carve out time to pursue your passions. After all, medical research indicates that people who have a healthy lifestyle routinely set aside at least twenty minutes (or more) of uninterrupted “me” time each day to relax, reflect, read, exercise, dream, tinker, stare into space or to do anything they personally want to do—like write.

2. Create a routine. Regular planning will help avoid stressful rushes in your life. Creating a routine also allows you to create time for your dreams. Then we can take that nagging voice in the back of our heads away. You know the one that says, “I know I can write that novel, chapter, short story or finish that project . . .I just need more time?” Create the routine and create the time.

3. Learn relaxation techniques and exercises. . . especially when your project (or your writing) hits a wall. Try deep breathing, visualization and meditation. A hot bath, a walk in the park, or some stretching exercises are also great stress relievers. I personally don’t believe in writer’s block or the proverbial brick wall. I think the brain just says, “Stop! Enough creative thinking, please.” I believe everyone needs down time to allow his brain clear and reboot, just like a computer. Clear the cache in your head by relaxing and doing something different.

4. Please get a grip on guilt. Guilt robs you of energy and motivation. Be realistic about your expectations at home and on the job. No one is perfect. It’s neither possible, nor desirable to try to be a perfect parent, employee or writer. Learn to say no. Be honest with your family when you workload is heavy, when you need to sneak away for “me time.” You cannot be productive when you are overworked, stressed or feeling guilty.

5. Talk to a friend, family member, neighbor or peer who shares you same passion. Take time to talk with a friend, even your spouse or child. Express feeling you have been holding inside. Talking about problems can help you blow off steam and give you the perspective you need to solve problems more easily. Once stress is relieved, your ability to pursue your goals comes easier.

6. Develop leisure activities. Practice a different craft, learn to play a musical instrument, join a community choir or weekly pinochle or bridge game, try your hand at painting, sewing or woodworking. Select a hobby you find relaxing. Find an activity you can do with your children or spouse. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d become a golfer. I took up the game several years ago to be able to get outdoors and play a sport with my husband. Golf courses are the most beautiful, peaceful, refreshing places on earth, full of nature, water and glorious landscaping. And no, I don’t play for score. I don’t even keep score. I don’t need that stress! I play for the exercise and fun of it.

On my next blog post, I will spoon up the last six tips. Meanwhile, keep pursuing your dreams and passions. . .and for some of us, that’s writing!

                                                            --Judy Ann Davis
                                                               www.judyanndavis.com
                                                               Three Merry Mysteries
                                                               Red Fox Woman



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Adventures of Self-Publishing

Why does a writer decide to self-publish? There are probably many, many reasons why, from not having an agent, nor a publisher, or simply just wanting to have complete control over the process. When I decided to publish Three Merry Mysteries, I chose to do it simply because I wanted to see how the process works. I selected five short stories I had written, three of which were mysteries, and then added two bonus short stories to make a total of 34 pages. The book size I chose was 6” x 9”. My word count was 9,300.

Two other local authors and I have been tossing around the idea of publishing a short story collection that we would write, edit and self-publish together. Our hope was to add it to our own authored books that we could sell at local art festivals and shows in Pennsylvania.

Let’s be clear: I am semi-literate to the world of computers. I understand the basics of most Microsoft Office software, but I’m no computer guru. That’s why I chose Createspace.

I was surprised by the ease in which Createspace took you through the steps of completing what I considered a daunting task. First, you must set up an account with them and give a title to your fiction or nonfiction work. From then on, the Createspace page actually prompts you through the process, using a nifty dashboard.
 
If I were to give anyone advice about the entire process, I would include the following main points.
  • Make sure your copy is flawless, error-free and grammatically perfect
This is important since you will have the opportunity at the end to proofread your copy, using an online preview or having a printed (hard) copy sent to you. If you discover mistakes, you must start all over again and make the corrections. This will also require that you to resubmit and wait for Createspace to review it each time. 
  •  Have an idea for your cover art before you attempt the process       
  • Chose your cover colors carefully
There are many beautiful, standard cover templates that are available at no cost, and that can easily be changed to the colors of your choice. Since the first short story in my mystery collection was about windmills, I went on dreamstime.com and purchased a picture of three windmills for a nominal price. If you’ve not discovered dreamstime.com, go there just to view the most gorgeous photography for sale.

I would caution everyone to order a proof copy, even if you must wait for it. This allows you to see what the book will look like before you submit it for final approval. What I also learned is that light colors often fade onto light backgrounds of web pages. I actually ended up changing my basic cover background color from ice blue to gray for this reason alone.

Everyone asks the cost. A custom 13-ISBN# costs $10.00. If you choose Expanded Distribution it will cost $25.00 more. And, if you choose Kindle Ready conversion, add $69.00. Bottom line: Everything could only cost as little as $10.00 for the custom 13-ISBN# (which I recommend) or $104. I did choose Kindle Ready conversion because I did not feel comfortable doing the electronic version, but later learned it wasn’t that difficult. I also felt that I couldn’t put a price on dodging a headache.

Am I going to tell you that it’s quick, easy and fun? Absolutely not. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s fun to see it evolve and finally come together. The one thing I learned is that there’s always a phone number to call if you need help, and Createspace has pages of online information to nudge you along on your adventure of self-publishing.

If you’d like to see my finished product, go to www.amazon.com/Three-Merry-Mysteries-Million-Diamonds/dp/0615625673/ and use the “Search Inside This Book.” It will not only show you the basic set-up, but it will allow you to read the first mystery, “A Sticky Affair,” for free!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Three Merry Mysteries

             Now available on amazon.com . . . 

THREE MERRY MYSTERIES
A Sticky Affair
Million Dollar Murder
Diamonds Aren't Forever

THREE MERRY MYSTERIES is a collection of three, quick read "Whodunit" mysteries and two bonus short stories. 

In a STICKY AFFAIR, Vicky Hanson wants desperately to move from her tiny, gaudy-looking apartment, but her fiance, Ronald, has embezzled $100,000 of company money and left her with some whopping debt. To add to the chaos, Ronald's obnoxious stepsister is insisting that Vicky help her find the location where her brother hid the money.

The Baker sisters in MILLION DOLLAR MURDER inherit two million dollars. Bernice generously donates her money to the local school and leaves for a European tour with her niece. The other sister, Lydia, is killed days later. Who killed Lydia and why?

In DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER, Eleanor bakes Great Aunt Katherine's diamonds into muffins to put them on ice until she can unload them for money. Will she be successful?

This collection also contains two bonus short stories: THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and THE WAGER. These two fun-filled tales are about a girlfriend's antics in reaction to a former boyfriend's marriage and a father's devotion to his daughter who's about to become married.

Visit me on the web: www.judyanndavis.com


Friday, April 13, 2012

No Appetite for "The Hunger Games"

Okay, I just finished the last book of The Hunger Games, and I tried so hard to like the series since everyone was raving about them. The movie version is breaking box office sales.

It’s no secret that the storyline of the three books is based on a violent dystopia society with a the cast of characters who are brutal, shallow and psychopathic. I personally believe that throwing a bunch of kids, age 12-18, into an arena to fight each other until death is barbaric, inhuman and just morally wrong, unless there is a lesson to be learned. The use of gore, cruelty and torture for shock effect doesn’t impress me as a reader. I suggest parents of younger teens should read these books first.

I was disappointed in the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Her personality lacked depth. She isn’t particularly good at anything but hunting with a bow and arrow. She doesn’t follow orders, she isn’t a visionary, she doesn’t make hard decisions or think for herself. She lets things happen. She’s often clueless, and she’s manipulated by her mentor, friends, rebel forces and others around her. Many times she’s overbearing and rude to her peers, but almost cowardly in her ability to interact with others. Katniss was forever running away when she was recovering from a traumatic situation—climbing into closets, behind pipes, under her bed covers or fallen plasterboard and other lonely places like the forest.

Ironically, I was also waiting for the author to instill some moral or ethical lesson, or give a few redeeming traits to the heroine that would have a positive effect on young adults reading the series. It didn’t happen. And this is where I think the series fail. Katniss never really felt sorry for the other tributes who were killed, besides Rue who she befriended. She continued to be tiresome, boring, sulky, and self-centered throughout the next two books. She was also continually eating something—even when others were dying around her. Even more weird is that she is the person chosen to be the symbol of the revolution!

Her interest in the love triangle and with either young men was lukewarm at best. The duel poisonous, berry-eating scene at the end of the first book is a typical Romeo and Juliet ending, and it tells us what? Suicide is the way to overthrow, manipulate or escape an oppressive government. Really?

I also thought the plot was contrived. Whenever there was a problem in the games, the rules were changed or gifts were parachuted in to help the characters get out of their pathetic situation. All the silly antics of wearing some of the various gowns, modeling six wedding gowns and use of extreme make-up/makeovers were thrown into the storylines because young adults, especially females, are enthralled with fashion, their physical looks, and the desire to be noticed.

I honestly tried to like The Hunger Games. . .I really did. I just couldn’t get hooked.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Boxcar Children and Me


Everyone has a story about how he or she was hooked on reading. Looking back at my youth, I believe most writers concur that there is a certain memorable time in our lives when our interest in reading was inordinately piqued with a book or series of books. I believe that many adult writers were curious children who were fascinated with reading at an early age.

For me, it was when my second grade teacher, Mrs. Bernice Robbins, introduced our class to the Boxcar Children series. Religiously, every afternoon, Mrs. Robbins made it a point to read aloud a chapter or two of the series, by Gertrude Chandler Warner, author and a first grade teacher as well. The original work was published in 1926, then reissued in 1942. Gertrude Warner wrote the first nineteen stories while other authors continued the series, updating them with present day settings.

What is so special about this particular series? It’s an adventurous story of four orphaned children who create a home in an abandoned boxcar in the forest. They are forced into this situation after they seek permission to stay overnight in a bakery, but overhear the baker’s wife say she'll keep the oldest three, but will send Benny, the youngest, to an orphanage. The children are afraid of their grandfather and legal guardian, James Alden, erroneously thinking him to be cruel old man.

The Alden children, ranging in ages from fourteen to six years old, furnish their boxcar with items retrieved from a local dump. They also befriend an injured dog with a thorn in his paw who Benny names Watch. Henry Alden, the oldest, is able to keep the children together and fed by working at odd jobs in a nearby town. The girls, Violet and Jessie, are skilled in cooking and sewing.

Ironically, many librarians of this time felt that the children in the series were having too good a time without parental control, but Gertrude Warner believed that this was the reason children were attracted to the stories, many of which were written as mysteries and many of which the Alden children, as amateur sleuths, were instrumental in helping to solve. I tend to agree with the author. As a seven year old, I felt it was both exciting and scary to be on your own, hidden away in a rail car that’s furnished only by your own ingenuity. My personal fear that the children would somehow be discovered and sent back to an orphanage kept me intrigued and hanging on to every word in every sentence. Later, the mysterious plots and antics of the (unsupervised) children were the invisible threads that kept me engaged in their lives and in reading.

If you have not read any books from the Boxcar Children series, I encourage you to pick up a copy and do so. Find a young person and share the story with him or her. If you have read any of these glorious tales, drop me a note and tell me your favorite title or your favorite character. Or tell me the moment you were hooked on reading!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why Do We Write?

Why do we write? I asked myself that the other day as I tried to put together a compilation of short stories and realized that I wasn’t having any fun. It had become a painful chore. But it had become a chore because I was weary of reading, re-reading and editing the same pieces over and over again until I could repeat them verbatim in my sleep.

So off I went to find an activity that would temporarily wipe out the hard drive in my mind. Naturally, the first logical diversion is to take a walk. But you can easily walk and think. A half hour later, I found I was mentally crazy glued to the project worse than if I were actually sitting in front of my laptop and even more thoughts were now swirling through my head.

Later that afternoon, I convinced my husband that we needed to go the driving range and hit some golf balls. I can sheepishly admit that I was so distracted and performed so poorly that I considered selling my clubs to the first person who showed any interest in buying them.

So how did I lose my focus and why did I feel distraught?

It took me all day until I was able to face my dilemma and realize what the problem might be. I was past the pleasure phase. I wasn’t having any fun because I was past the creative part of the process. I was no longer able to escape into the lives of my characters. I was finished designing my settings, dreaming up plots, and crafting new ideas and situations.
  
Yes, I was into the dreaded, painful editing process consisting of all the menial chores like verifying facts, names and spelling; confirming continuity of the various plots; rechecking grammar; and making certain every story was set-up in the same uniform format.

A writer friend of mine said that now is time when you need little rewards and incentives to nudge yourself toward your final goal of producing a complete, clean manuscript.

Oh, please, tell me she was referring to chocolate, jewelry, shopping or a good bottle of wine.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ten 2012 New Year’s Resolutions

I will strive to. . .

Live each day to the fullest and allow the activities of that day to take me on new, winding journeys I never expected. “Ninety-five percent of the people who died today had expected to live a lot longer.” --Albert M. Wells, Jr.

Be more patient with people, family, processes, my writing, distractions—even slow elevators. We must learn that, like the farmers, we can’t sow and reap the same day.

Exercise more, listen more, laugh more. . . and let the future come one day at a time, as it always does.

Enjoy my home to its fullest, despite the work, dust and menial chores that surround me which often gobble time set aside for writing. After all, home is where you hang your heart.

Dream . . . or rather allow myself the luxury to dream. Dreams are the heart of creativity. “The poorest of all men is not the man without a cent, but a man without a dream.”

Handle criticism graciously.  “If it’s untrue, disregard it. If it’s unfair, keep from irritation. If it’s ignorant, smile. If it’s justified, learn from it.” --Anonymous

Be grateful for the doors of opportunity. . .and for friends who oil the hinges. As writers, we need our family, our friends and other writers who understand the trials and toils of the writing process.

Help find and better define truth in the world. We have lost sight of the importance of truth and honesty in our lives. Our media and people today have failed to delineate the difference between fact versus opinion. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”-- Aldous Huxley

Understand  and accept that peace does not mean the same thing (or have the same definition) for all the people who inhabit our world. Therefore, as part of a U.S. military family, I will pray for a peace that will remove all our men and women from combat in foreign lands and bring them home to the safety of American soil. “God blesses those who work for peace, for they shall be called the children of God.”   Matthew 5:9

Reiterate my daily mantra in the New 2012 year to all who will listen:
  
             “Never let anyone steal your  joy.”