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
                                                               Three Merry Mysteries
                                                               Red Fox Woman

Thursday, May 10, 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 and purchased a picture of three windmills for a nominal price. If you’ve not discovered, 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 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!