Category: Personal

Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in three days. Are you ready? We’re having a small turkey with all the trimmings, which means oyster dressing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, green beans, salad, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie! Then we will be stuffed and probably take a nap or watch a movie and then nap. 


We’re very blessed and we are filled with gratitude.

Gratitude. That’s my subject for today. A much tossed-around word and I wonder if you give the word the thought it deserves. According to, the word means “a quality of feeling grateful or thankful.” Merriam Webster adds, “a sense of appreciation.”

This time of year we are “told” it is customary to count one’s blessings. I hear so many people online and in person who toss around how grateful they are yet in the second breath, their words are all about complaints and disappointments, illness and sorrow, anger and even, hatred. Kinda hard to mention gratitude when you are busy denigrating people or wallowing in problems.

Wrong. One of the most important times to be grateful and to share that gratitude is during troubled or angry times. Why? Because gratitude is about remembering what you have that is good, happy, intrinsically valuable and enriching. There is always something to be grateful for, something or someone to whom you can give appreciation. And no, you don’t have to be openly gushing with gratitude because sometimes appreciating is by moments and those are private. But we do have to realize there is always something uplifting for which we can celebrate and be thankful even in the darkest moments.

Let’s start with the light. 

First, I am pleased to tell you that my recent release, Time and Blood, reached the #1 Bestseller status on Friday November 17, 2017. That happens when you reach #1 in your book categories. I did in one of three and reached #2 in the other two. I am so grateful to the people who bought the book and therefore elevated me to that #1 status. A truly amazing moment.

Next, National Novel Writing Month is into it’s last 10 days. I’m happy to announce that I’m over 46K and expect to finish prior to Thanksgiving. I had my ups and downs with this one. My outline and I turned on each other but I never let it stop me and I just wrote whatever felt fun and kept going. There is the secret. Have fun and keep going!

     I want to add an aside here. While working on NaNo, I listened to a great many complaints. No time, too hard, too tired, too many other things to do, I’m sick…you get the idea. This is where it’s important to latch on to gratitude and hold on tight. I’m with you. I hear you. I’ve had awful things happen during my NaNo’s too. And I remembered what was good while in the dark. I had family and health, warmth and food, friends, family, home, love. Yes, it’s important to grab all the good, positive things and be grateful for them. They sustain and support you. And gratitude can propel you to succeed if you allow it.

Finally, with Thanksgiving coming this week, I want to encourage you to pause and reflect on gratitude. Take nothing for granted, no matter how small.  Whether you have a feast with family or a sandwich on the run, stop and think of the tiny blessings. You live and eat when so many struggle. Be grateful. Make no assumptions. Surrounded by people who like and love you? Please be deeply appreciative for them. Have a new book or even a bestseller? Did you finish NaNo? Did you get a chance to try? Have a Job? Pay your bills? Every small thing is worth reflecting on your blessings.

Okay so what about when things are bad? You burned the turkey? Laugh and be grateful of having a bird, an oven, the ability to cook. Cake fell? Eat a twinkie and be happy. Dishwasher leaking? Turn it off and wash those lovely dishes by hand. You have hands! Some people don’t. You are alone? Don’t be. Go out, call someone. Car broken? Friends WILL come to you. No friends? You still have you and you are your best friend. There are lights in the dark, if you just stop to look.

Gratitude. I am thankful every single day and not just on Thanksgiving. But this holiday of giving and appreciation reminds me to take stock of my life and stand tall amid strife and chaos, and help others who aren’t standing quite as steady as I am. 

Which leads me to you, reader. Thank you. For supporting me, following me, helping me and believing in me. This Thanksgiving and every day I am deeply appreciative and I count my many blessings that come from being a writer.

Writer. Author. Two books this year. A pocket of awards and now a “best seller” moniker.  Add to those wonders:  a Personal Assistant who gives generously and has been my right hand and sanity. Plus friends who whisper in my ear and keep me on the right track. Radio interviews by Off the Chain and Hangin’ With Web Show, and publicity in magazines like Turning The Pages and Southern Writer’s Magazine. Bloggers who supported me and other Authors who advised me. Friends who uplifted me. And most of all, a husband who loves me.

Gratitude. Remember yours. The smallest things matter the most. Happy Thanksgiving!

As always, I remain
Yours Between the Lines,

Rowing Thru the NaNo Swamp


If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, then as of yesterday you should have broken the 20K mark. That is, provided you’ve met or exceeded your word goals ever day. I had to skip Veterans’ Day on Saturday but by last night I stopped with 25,838 words. I’m ahead of the program thanks to working hard early on to be sure I had a buffer. And I learned there is a very good reason for doing so and it has nothing to do with being able to skip a day (because I don’t usually skip). The reason is because by mid month you have entered into what author Jim Butcher calls. . . . 


You can read Jim Butcher’s take on the Swampy Middle but let me paraphrase. It is the moment in the book when you’ve charged along and suddenly you’ve met your goals and you are in the middle, rambling along, maybe worry-free and suddenly it dawns on you that you really are working in circles, that you lost the goal somewhere and now, You. Are. Lost. The page is blank. The ideas are floating away and you are afraid to admit to anyone that YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT TO DO.

It’s okay. I’ve been there. I took a big swim in the Swamp once and I lost my entire month because I couldn’t save myself. Since that time I’ve given myself an outline with several out clauses. That’s right, I built in escape holes so I could go play (if I got lost or bored) and still be able to get back to the main story. Clever, right?

Jim Butcher says you get yourself out of being lost by planning for a HUGE event in the middle of the book! That’s right, do something big and give yourself time to plan for it and then when the swampy middle arrives you have a way to get through it by blowing it up with something wild or wowie or amazing. And then you get back on track and you’ve never really left the main story.

He’s so clever. I bow to the master.

I do something like that but not as great or dramatic. I get my characters to stop and tell a story. I get them to recount something that happened before or after the book, as if to explain something to one of the other characters. It works well because it allows me to explore a new idea, keep working with the characters I already have in play and I challenge my muse to find the way back with the same characters.

Works every time. I also plan for this by leaving myself a side outline of possible tales to recount. These are the fun or funny things that I may not use in the book but will keep my heart delighted (and you never know, you might use these stories for freebies later – I intend to do just that!).


So now it’s time to push forward with that oar in your boat of uncertainty and guide yourself through that swampy bog middle of your story. It may take you another 15K or so (which is about right) and you’ll be sitting around Nov 20, but that gives you plenty of time to finish the last 15K with the best climax and ending you’ve ever done. 

Meanwhile, get some snacks, your music, your candle or your favorite blanket. Reconnect with your inner self and then wade confidently into the darkness. You are about to enter the dank, the most terrifyingly best, creepiest, coolest, part of your NaNo. And the next week will be very challenging.

From here on out, never fear the Great Swampy Middle, the Foggy Bog. Look forward to it. It will always come and you can prepare and even be excited at the challenge. After that, NaNo is always a breeze. People will wonder how you managed. Just tell them, you have a secret path through the bayou.

You can do it. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Just don’t look back. You don’t want to know what’s chasing you.

I’ll be back before Thanksgiving and we’ll talk about gratitude. Until then, keep writing. Stay focused and get some sleep.

OH! And remember, DURING NaNo – THERE IS NO DELETE BUTTON! (we need words!)

I remain, Yours Between the Lines,

How do you measure success?

This last week has been extremely stressful and busy. With the launch of my new book, Time and Blood, I’ve been caught up in marketing, promotions and sales. Over the last month, I participated in three Facebook events, spent Halloween doing a series of Facebook live events, worked ad designs for four books into a Holiday sales catalog, appeared on Yvonne Mason’s blogtalk radio show Off The Chain and topped everything off with beginning National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). WHEW. To say I was tired over the weekend would be an understatement. 

I had good news. Saturday I discovered that my new book Time and Blood hit the Amazon Hot New Release list. Yes, the list is updated hourly and I didn’t stay there, but I did show at #3. 

Every author I know dreams of hitting the bestseller list. I didn’t hit #1 but just knowing you’ve breached the top 10 is incredible. Here’s how I found out that I managed to crack into the Bestseller lists in my categories:

The actual statistics are located on the book details about your categories:

I admit that I am humble bragging. I’ve never had any success like this and so it is both humbling and amazing enough that if I don’t tell someone, it might seem as though it didn’t happen. The ranking success is so fluid and changes so often (so much), that when a moment like this happens, you capture it and move on — but you have to say, “Look, for just a moment, I shone.”

Anyone who wants to be published needs to realize how much time and money goes into marketing and promoting your work. You cannot sit on your hands and expect the world to discover you, not if you are an Indie author. Unless you have a PR firm to do the work for you, you – the author – must seek out promoters and venues where you get maximum visibility. And in a world where self-publishing is beginning to proliferate the market, rising to the top is unbelieveably challenging. If you have a large following of friends and family who can help, that is a boon. I don’t have a large cadre of either so that hurts me. 


And unfortunately there are many authors who won’t buy your work and support you unless you are in their inner circle. I’ve noticed that once you achieve a Bestseller ranking (Amazon, NYT or USA Today), that you move into “inner circles” where those authors and their readers continue to promote and purchase you. You stay hot as long as you keep publishing. Until then it’s promote, sell, promote, push, advertise, promote. Endlessly.

But for the rest of us who are lucky to sell maybe 50-100 books, we’re doomed to sit on the outside and wonder how we get noticed. That’s where the marketing and publicity comes back — as you work to find reviewers and venues to be seen and heard.  You might say authors are a bunch of ouroboros. What I mean is that we must live, eat our own tails to be reborn and live again. We eat our sales in marketing and publicity, in order to make more sales and eat our tales again. It is the endless circle of renewal, the infinity sign. Unfortunately most Indie authors find publicity and marketing costs more than the resulting profits. So how do you measure success?


It’s a tough road and why anyone who thinks they will start off making a living as an author is crazy. But if you work hard, then you may have a moment like me, and know someone has noticed you. It is humbling and exciting.

I measure success not just in these statistics. My successes come in much smaller doses: the sale of a book to a new friend, an old friend anxiously waiting to purchase your new book, a dividend payment that is only $3 which means, “hey, you sold a print book!” Success is not in large dollars but in the moments that validate what you do. Oh yes, statistics and “bestseller” titles are coveted and precious, but the real success comes when you know realize that you have stories to tell and someone, somewhere, is reading them.

Then you begin again, because writing is like breathing, you simply must. And hope lives.


Which brings me to my next subject, NaNoWriMo. Five days in and I’m on track, even a little ahead of schedule. If you’re like me, you are discovering that you must schedule work time and balance your seclusions with the requirements of life. If you live alone, bless you. You have the right-of-way of the rest of us who are juggling children, spouses, boy/girl friends, laundry, furry families, jobs, meals, shopping, bills, and sleep. 

I am happily married to a newly retired husband. The silent time I used to enjoy is now filled with another body. Fortunately he understands my need for quiet space to write. And I take that space. Not all are as fortunate, especially with demanding jobs or young children. Family cooperation can be a premium achievement. I get it.

What do you do? You have to stand up and demand the time for your. Your writing is important. Whether you take 30 minutes or three hours, what you need should be recognized even compromised for your health and happiness. Perhaps you can take the time at lunch, before bed, after supper. (I do some best work in the shower or in the tub. haha)

Whatever you do, do it because you want it and help your significant others (family and bosses) to  understand your needs. Then discard the guilt and work your muse. Let the words flow. It may take some extra effort but isn’t the joy worth it?

My NaNo count for the last five days is: 12,173. When the minimum is 1667 a day, that puts me 3,838 words ahead, and that’s more than a two day cushion. Cushions are good, like emergency funds in the bank. In the event of unforeseen circumstances (family emergency, sickness- me or others) I have some extra to help tide me over. And if nothing extraordinary happens, then I will finish early.

Confession. I’ve veered off outline. Yes, I’m a plotter. This is meant to be the bones of my sequel to Time and Blood, so I’m trying to get all my ideas down on paper. It will be an editing monster later but the important ideas will be on paper. Still, twice I’ve drifted away from my outline and had fun doing it. I’m just letting myself go where the characters want to go. Swallow your editor and give yourself permission to have fun. Word count is the goal. Content will be massaged later.

How do you measure success during NaNo? For me, success is butt-in-chair everyday with writing. Success is meeting your word goal but success is also not measured by numbers but in personal growth. Are you doing more than you used to do? Did you do more than yesterday? Are you more focused? Success may be in the self-discovery. Allow yourself to realize personal success not just a happy word goal.

Tell me how you are doing and how you are managing your time. I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to know, How Do YOU Measure Success (and when)?

Next week, let’s talk about getting tired and frustrated and how you can push through it.


What’s next? I’m appearing at Authors Invade Columbia this Saturday Nov 11, in Columbia, SC, 10 am – 3pm. Come out to see us if you are close. It would be delightful to meet you.

Until we meet again,
I remain, Yours Between the Lines,