A Little Hope and Inspiration: Ice Cream in Winter

A few days ago, I saw an ice cream truck pass by. In the middle of winter. In the rain.

Nah, there wasn’t any tinkly music tinkling from it, and it was pretty clear the driver was just getting from Point A to Point B. But still, it was an ice cream truck.

Sometimes, in the middle of winter, you need a little reminder that ice cream still exists.

And don’t be so quick to say, “Well, he doesn’t really have any ice cream in the truck to sell right now, so we can’t have any. That’s just the way it is in the winter.”

No. If sitting around waiting for spring or summer to hear that tinkly music coming down your street will take too long, get on down to Cold Stone or Baskin-Robbins or Dairy Queen or the freezers at Safeway and pick up a little something. And go on and smile and laugh and genuinely enjoy it, doggone it.

My point?
Don’t let the middle of your “winter” season fool you.

 

Life After an Author’s Mistakes

I recently took a survey that asked me, “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as an author?”

Oh. Ouch. All the ouch.

There’s a lot of research, trial and error, learning, and growth that comes along with this authoring and publishing gig, especially for those of us who are in it for the long term. It’s a journey that requires creativity, business know-how, and oftentimes a combination of both.

Yet, my biggest mistake as an author wasn’t exactly a creative one or even all that business-related. It was part of the result of being grievously maltreated for ten years.

I’ll not go into all of those details in this post. But suffice it to say that I published some books in reaction to the constant demands for marketplace productivity from a twisted, abusive manipulator who feigned to care about my success and wellbeing—because my productivity would help the manipulator look good. There’s much more to it, but I’ll leave it at that.

No, those books I published in vain attempts to stave off further abuse weren’t bad books. I’m a good writer, and I didn’t just pick up a pen yesterday. Even so, I often say that writers should know the specific reasons why they, as individuals, write. Further, authors who publish should know the specific reasons why they publish their work. (That is, just because you love to write doesn’t mean you have to seek or desire to get into the business of publishing. Not all writers do, and it’s okay.)

But some time after I got out of that abusive situation and took stock of my work, I found that some of my books didn’t line up with my personal reasons for writing and publishing. They weren’t a reflection of my real passion. They weren’t the kind of books I hoped to be known for, nor were they books I would search for or purchase as a reader.

Why would I want to sell stuff to other people that I wouldn’t even buy myself? Publishing some of those books was a mistake.

Granted, I gained valuable information, skills, and experience in the midst of my mistake-making. Publishing those books taught me how to publish. Still, once I realized that those books (while good for what they were) weren’t produced in the spirit I want for my life and career, and they weren’t what I wanted to provide for readers, I had to stop and change my direction.

That meant doing some revising and reediting, and for one book, doing a thorough rewrite for a new edition. For other books of mine, it meant going through and unpublishing them, taking them off the market altogether. No reworking or rewriting—just removing them and putting a close to that unfortunate chapter of my journey.

Would I be further along than I am now as an author if I hadn’t had that weight on my back for a decade? In some ways, it’s quite likely. Even knowing what I learned at the time, I can see how that weight held me back, to put it mildly.

The important thing, though, is that after making my biggest mistake(s) as an author, I didn’t hang a “Forget It” sign on my door and close up shop. I kept going. I’m still going. And as long as I’ve got more stories to write and to share with the world, I’m going to keep at my life’s work, because no one can do my life’s work but me.

This absolutely doesn’t only apply to authors, but whoever you are, if you’re reading this: there’s life after your mistakes. Find a way to make things right, even if it means changing your direction or taking a totally different path, or going back and making corrections, or “unpublishing” some chapters you’ve written, taking them “off the market,” and letting them go.

Dust yourself off, inhale some fresh air, and keep going. No one can do your life’s work but you.

 

Beyond the Politics, Check Your Heart

I figure it’s time for me to pause from book and movie blogging to say something to my blog readers, and anyone else who’s listening.

I see what’s happening in the United States. Not just what’s happening in America but what’s happening with Americans.

A country isn’t merely a place. A country is the people in that place. And, no, things aren’t just a little heated or uncomfy in America at present. We’re in a crisis. Not only does human crisis bring out the best or the worst in people, but it sets the stage for what kind of people they’ll be, going forward.

Trust and believe, you don’t become something deeply and drastically different overnight. It happens little by little—a day by day process. It’s a good thing when you’re aware of how you’re changing, how you’re evolving, when you’re intentional about it, and you wake up at peace with what you’ve become and are becoming. But it’s a sad thing when you wake up one day, look in the “mirror,” and realize there isn’t much true honor in what you’ve turned into. When you realize, somewhere along the line, in the middle of all the noise, you became too accustomed to tuning out your conscience.

With every discussion or dispute you hop into, you’re becoming something. With every catchy meme you jump on and share around on social media, you’re becoming something. With every voice you choose to agree with, every voice you choose to disagree with, and every voice you choose to disregard, you’re becoming something.

So my encouragement to everyone reading this is to stop and check to honestly see what you’re becoming. Not merely the person you say you are or want to be, or who you are when your friends are around to concur with your opinions, or who you are when you’re busy arguing with folks to prove a point. I mean for you to check on you. Not just to check on the immediate or loudest stuff in your brain, but to check on your heart. Deep down.

Don’t blindly allow this time of crisis to turn you into something you’ll regret or be ashamed of, years down the road. Don’t get so caught up in noise that you miss the present opportunity to work on your character, to become a better human being.

Don’t just know your politics. Check on that heart of yours.

 

Rough Days for Reviews, and My Encouragement

All the Book Love

As it happens with anything and anyone else, some days are harder than others for an author. On the marketing side of things, there’ve been some recent rough days in many an author’s neck of the woods, particularly where one crucial area of book marketing is concerned: book reviews.

There’s been an uproar (a recurrent one?) and much speculation as the online book reviews of more authors and reviewers have been disappearing. (Here are samples of the uproar and speculation, in case you’ve been out of the loop.)

I understand what all of the fuss is about, particularly for independent authors who work hard to get book reviews. Yes, the couple of handfuls of precious reviews I’ve been able to gather for my own books are the result of hours and hours, months and months of searching and querying, reading the review policies of anywhere from 600 to 700 book reviewers and bloggers, individually contacting about 300 whose preferences and requirements I met, getting “Yes, I’ll review your book!” responses from about half of those, and resulting in what I have so far.

Please excuse my inexact numbers. I’ll admit that the closer I got to 1,000 reviewers, fatigue set in, and I started losing track of the count, even with my recording all the data. 🙂 I had to get back to reading and writing to regain my strength.

And speaking of reading and writing, reviewing parameters have the potential to get sticky for a bookworm who loves writing books as much as reading and reviewing them. I mean, once someone writes a book, any other book that person reads from that day forward is “another author’s” book. That’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Anyway, in the midst of these rough days, I’ve had to recall the dear memory of once finding a novel that saved my life. The author wrote it long before I was born, and there’s no way she or her publisher could have known anything about Nadine C. Keels and what Nadine would be going through when she happened to find the book on a shelf, decades down the line. And I have no idea what difficulties the author or publisher may’ve had to overcome to get that book out into the world.

But God and the orchestration of His universe had a way of making sure the right book from the right author got into this reader’s hands at just the right time. I believe I’m not at all the only reader that has ever happened to, and it makes me trust that the same will ultimately happen for the books I’ve written for others.

Nope, this encouragement isn’t very scientific, but when I’m putting everything I am and everything I’ve got into writing and planning and publishing and marketing and all, and another uproar or obstacle in the process arises, I have to remind myself of why I think it’s worth it to keep at it, even when favorable results are hard to come by and seem minimal. There are so many uncontrollable factors anyway, factors that go into when, where, and why a book sells, and once it’s sold, if it’s actually read.

So, as a reader and an author, I’ll keep doing what I can, change or improve what I can, try not to stress too much over what’s out of my hands, and remember all the books that have gotten into my hands at the right time, despite what the obstacles may have been.

*Oh! And if you’re a reader, do know that the reviews you write mean so much and are a great help to the authors you love to read.*