Debut Author, Women's Fiction Author, Writer

Leaping Out of the Box

leap-out-of-the-box

When have you gone beyond your comfort zone or “out of your box” in your life? Take a second to think (insert Jeopardy music). Okay, are you back? 😊 I hope you were able to think of an example, but if not, do not fear! I’m here to tell you about my author experiences lately and to hopefully encourage you to take that leap into the great beyond.

Let me clarify why I use the word leaping instead of getting out of the box or stepping out of the box. First, I use the term because getting out of the box is way too normal for me and I’m a quirky lady. LOL! But second, I think sometimes people contemplate taking a risk, possibly peek over the side of the metaphorical box, then either decide to stay or leave. Leaping means you boldly go into the wild by following your gut and to me that’s a leap of faith. If you choose not to leap, there’s no judgment here. Of course, this post is about encouraging you to push yourself so I’m going to say try it out. Just once. Something small. Come on, please?

As I approach the release of my debut novel, THE DIFFERENCE, this year I’m finding more and more opportunities for me to leap than expected. I’m thrilled about it and more than ready after my long publishing journey, but there’s another side. Translation= facing anxiety provoking tasks.

Do any of you relate to feeling anxious leading up to speaking to the public? Where you will show your heart to strangers? Where you will talk to people you look up to in your field? Welcome to my world. I am now in the stage of preparing for author interviews to talk about my book, giving my art and soul (get it? Haha) for public viewing and criticism, and communicating with people I only dreamed of chatting with in the past. I’m SO lucky to be in this place, but guess who I have to keep pushing to say yes. Me!

During brainstorming for one of my potential release parties, I was asked by the host if I wanted to do something on camera and my panicked reaction slipped from my mouth without thinking. A loud “No!” spilled out, but seconds later I was able to process how wonderful the idea is and say “Sorry, that was my fear.” I’ll most likely engage in the genius suggestion whenever that party happens and urge myself to be vulnerable.

Even though avoiding is my usual first reaction, I generally do the fearful thing because I know it will be good for my big picture goal. For my book, I need to take every opportunity kindly given to me, and I have done so this whole time already, from my pitching business to even writing a novel at all. I can’t stop now when it’s most important. What I have been finding is that I freak out a little upon the idea of the opportunity, the moment I accept an invitation, or whatever the case may be. Then, I prepare to the max, while still anxious usually, sign on to do the event, for example, and… all is fine. In fact, I usually feel a huge sense of accomplishment and joy and realize that I worried for nothing.

You know by now that I am always genuine so I’ll be honest in the moment and share if something goes awry anyway. I’m not going to hide it, and people respond to that relatability. Isn’t it better to show we are all human and imperfect? So again, why stay in the box? It doesn’t make sense. Being free is so much better, especially when we free ourselves from the fear of sounding a certain unflattering way or making a mistake. Nobody cares as much as you. Nobody is as focused on you as you. Nobody will remember these silly moments, so let’s not let the possibility of them keep us from wonderful new experiences.

what-if-I-fly-quote

Instead of thinking about failing, I try to change my mindset to what beauty can come from taking the leap. I have the analytical side and the dreamer side in me, so I try to embrace the positive “what if” side for these circumstances.

A theory I use in my clinical setting as a psychotherapist is called *Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The basic idea is that thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behaviors. So, if you have an unhealthy or illogical thought, you may feel a certain negative way, which makes you act in a certain way. For example, if I think “I’ll make a fool out of myself if I do the live interview,” then I may feel sad, anxious, and fearful. The behavior is that I may decline the interviewer or maybe I will avoid even responding to the invitation. But I can try to challenge my thought with evidence from the past, such as how no disaster has ever happened during interviews, only good outcomes. I also may ask myself what I would tell a friend, because aren’t we easier on others verses ourselves? A final question I may ask is what is the worst, best, or most likely outcome that may occur? Well, in this case, the worst may be I that misspeak or some other insignificant action to everyone else. The best outcome may be that my book sales go through the roof because it was a fabulous interview! The most likely outcome may be that people enjoy the exchange and are interested in being in my author world, buying my book or otherwise. Ah, now there’s relief as a new feeling overtakes me and I may go ahead and say yes to the invitation.

Comfort-zone-magic

Going outside of your comfort zone usually is where the magic happens. One type of faulty thought is trying to predict the future. The beauty in this is that if we avoid predicting by challenging the thought, we most likely will be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected possibilities and invite goodness to flow our way. Trusting the process is a big phrase in the therapy world, but I think it also applies to life. Sometimes we have to give in to the process and trust it is a good step along our path. That’s why I say leap, don’t inch out of the box. 

So, as I venture into making reels on Instagram (eek!), doing live interviews (ahhh!), and soon going outside my natural comfort zone of asking “Hey, want to buy my book” instead of just giving it to people, I’ll continue to push myself and challenge anxiety provoking thoughts. I’ll also be thinking of you inspiring me. We will catapult out of our boxes. That’s right, we will bust out together. I know we can do it.

*The description of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not to be used in place of therapy.

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Women's Fiction Author

Just Say No to Comparison

Just-say-no-to-comparison

You are not meant for my journey and I am not meant for yours. That’s a dose of Captain Obvious, right? We usually know this statement to be true in our heads, but our hearts fall into webs of anxiety, disappointment, and helplessness because we compare ourselves to others at times. No matter the topic for comparison, it will always bring us a false sense of security or happiness… or dreaded sorrow. What a time waster! So let’s try to stop this behavior together.

You may not know unless you are in this book publishing world that it is the slowest business on the planet. That’s my perspective of course, but I view it as a beautiful shiny green turtle walking toward a lake. The sparkly blue destination will come in time but getting there takes forever and a day. The turtle crawls along the grass with a smile on its tiny face taking it one step at a time. He’s slow and steady, knowing he will get there at the perfect time for him.

I’m a person who works non-stop until my goal is reached, so on a long game like getting my book published, it’s challenging. I want to knock it out, like, yesterday. During the wait, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing myself to other authors’ experiences, based mostly on what they post on their social media. Ah, there are the key words. Social media. Cue the doomsday music.

Who looks on their social media and wonders about your own life based on what you see your friends doing? *Everyone raises their hand including me.* This doesn’t happen on my personal accounts, but lately has been happening a little on my author accounts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond thrilled for others’ success, but when it’s taken this long to get my book published, it’s hard. I’m human. And I’m just being honest, as I always try to be with you. I still cheer for my fellow writers and support them all I can. I always will. And I always want them to shine and succeed. It’s just that moments happen where I have the feelings of wishing I could control my circumstances and get The Difference finished and out to you already (there have been publisher delays, which is common in the industry). I’m sure you can think of a time in your life, even now maybe, where you felt like you wanted to do something beyond your control and fall into the hole of comparison. Here’s my thoughts on the chain effects of social media comparison.

social-media-cycle

It’s a slippery slope, huh? Remember that I am a licensed psychotherapist as well as an author, so this is my personal perspective and not research based for this blog’s purposes. However, this graphic information comes from twenty years of psychological experience of comparison evils. Anyway, it is very real and can happen easily, I think. But let’s remember one key fact.

behind-the-scenes-reel

Brilliant (especially for my behind the scenes blog)! When we see what others post, we only see a snippet. Try to remember that. Who knows what happens behind the curtain? I know that I never post negativity or struggles on my own profiles because I don’t want to spread that energy. I want people to experience an escape and to feel joy when they see my content.

So how can we stop the comparison monster from feeding on our motivation and happiness? Below are a few my suggestions and those that I tell myself.

 Thoughts to play on repeat in your head:

  • You may be seeing the result of many more years of work by someone, when you are just starting.
  • You are shining in your own way that others may admire. The sun shines at a different time than the moon.
  • Apples and oranges are not comparable. Both are needed, beautiful, and desired.
  • Feelings and thoughts are fleeting. You will not always feel this way. It’s temporary.

Actions you can take:

  • Ask yourself what is in your control. What can you do to help you reach what you want when you look on social media? How can you work toward your goals?
  • Imagine a tiny person inside of you, called your inner critic. Give it a name, think of what it looks like, and think of what it says to you to de-motivate you and harass you. Now tell it to stop! Send it away by throwing it out the window. Do anything in your imagination to make it cease or leave. It does you no good.
  • Take a social media break. Don’t look online for a day or more. Everyone gets burned out and needs time away. It’s more than okay; it’s necessary sometimes.

Let’s make sure we stop comparing ourselves to others. Make it your mission this month. Know that I’m doing it with you. This way, you can feel even more joy for your fellow humans. Your turtle will make it to the lake, so enjoy the steps along the way. And when it reaches the warm, fresh water, drink it in and float in your success. We’ve got this.

(Just in case you need to talk to someone about your feelings of anxiety, depression, or anything else, make sure to reach out to loved ones in your life and/or make an appointment with a professional. Here’s a national hotline that can provide resources and help as well: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). Be well, friends.)

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Writer

Lessons from a Beginner

beginner-excellent-quote

Who has been a beginner at something in their life? All of you can say “yes” to this question. I mean, who hasn’t had day one of learning at a new job, a first day of school, or the first time you attempted to learn a hobby. For this second career of mine with being a writer about to be published, I am constantly learning. Let me say that again. Folks, it’s constant. Just when I think I have something down, new challenges come my way. For a perfectionist spirit, that can be tough at times, but it’s fine. No seriously. I swear I mean it! It lets me continue to grow, which I know I need. We all need it, so I’m going to share a little bit of what’s been happening and give you some pointers to help you on your learning journey, no matter your beginner area.

The process of publication (specifically the very new area of marketing for me) and social media have been my latest topics of gaining knowledge. They are intertwined in many aspects, but first I’ll tell you about the publication for my debut novel, The Difference (date being released soon, yay!).

Oh, so many lessons have been learned over the last year or so while I wait for that book to be in both of our hands. For one, I have been lucky enough to be able to join groups online for debut authors. These groups have been a Godsend for me. The support and kindness of the other authors have warmed my heart every day. Nobody is in competition. Everybody is there to cheerlead, vent, learn, problem solve, and continue to get motivated for future greatness. I’ve met wonderful people and without them, I wouldn’t know half of what to expect in the months leading up to my release for marketing opportunities. Let me tell you how many mistakes I would have made as a novice! I believe my delay in publishing happened for a reason and part of it was that I had to be more prepared for what was coming my way, learning from their choices and advice. Sure, I’ll make mistakes on my own, but I know I have a group of people who will help me through them and won’t judge me.

Part of what I have learned from the other authors and with my own experiences is how to be in less control. Argh, the horror. Ugh, the beginner’s blindness to this not being reality. This independent, Type A, workaholic author loves a plan, loves to be excellent immediately, and loves to be in complete control. But guess what…it’s necessary to accept I am not in control. I chose to be traditionally published, so that gives up my total control from the start. I work with my publisher to have a schedule for editing, marketing, release, and promotion. Nothing is solely up to me (which brings me comfort to know I have an expert leading me, but still you may feel my pain). And my God, the beginner questions I have had to ask. It’s like a huge neon sign in Vegas pointing to me reading “newbie.” But yet, I force myself to ask and am better for having done so (and knowing the answer I needed).

So, back to social media. Has anyone figured out the algorithms yet? I know that’s a huge “no,” but a girl can still hope. If you ever do, tell me, okay? I am active daily on Instagram and Twitter and have been experimenting lately with when I post, the hashtags I use, how I write my narrative, and how I post in stories. I’ve even made a few videos, which is realllly outside of my comfort zone. Learning how to do something better is always an interest for me, but I do get frustrated at times. You know why? Because sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to posts that get more activity. If you read last month’s blog post (scroll down to read later) you know I am more interested in relationships than numbers, but I do want to keep growing of course. This means, I’ll continue to take webinars from trusted pros, put more of my face out there (so scary!), and keep on trying out new things. I won’t ever have a perfect account, but it will be a step closer to a personal excellence I can be satisfied with for putting in the effort. All I can do it try. That’s how learning happens sometimes.

Van Gogh is my favorite artist, but little did I know until recently he has many brilliant quotes as well as paintings and drawings. This quote below summarizes the needed attitude of being an author this day in age.

van-gogh-quote

It’s a must to learn much more than how to write a great book as an author these days. I didn’t expect I would learn Marketing 101 and more going into this field, but it’s been fun and fulfilling so far, even with being a beginner over and over. Here’s some major points I’ve learned and want to encourage you to think about in your life:

  • People are generally on your side- Others, especially in a community of your interest, want to help you. Also, I’m sure there is reciprocal inspiration and admiration, so put your stuff out there. I think most people are kind souls who want to see a person succeed when they notice hard work. At least I hope so. If not, they aren’t for you. Move on.
  • Force yourself to try new things (even things you thought you would never do)- You never know what positives will come from merely trying something new. If I didn’t start talking with people on social media platforms, I would not be anywhere near as knowledgeable or prepared for every step of my publication adventure. And making my videos recently? Deep breaths and my heart feeling like it stopped occurred when I pressed that share button, but I’m better for it. I faced my fear, no matter how small that seems. Who cares more than me anyway? It’s just a video. There are millions out there. Which leads me to…
  • Be more outgoing- Maybe you extroverts out there don’t need this one, but for this introvert, I have needed to take many steps that require getting past my shyness and gathering up my energy to be social, especially for my pitch party business. I have promoted my services with others live; the ultimate nerve-wracking activity for someone like me. But I push myself and do it! And I always will. I’m grateful for any opportunity. It matters more than fear. And speaking of…
  • Don’t be afraid to fail; it’s okay to make a mistake- Not every choice will lead to glory. Not every effort will pay off. What matters is that we keep trying, with knowing the risk of messing up is present and still rolling forward. It’s not life or death most of the time, so just do it! Maybe an unexpected positive will come from a perceived failure. You never know.

Even though none of us start off excellent in a new activity, we can get there with practice and determination. I’ve taught myself many art forms in my life (drawing, crochet, ukulele), but writing is the most complex, has social requirements, and has financial implications. I’m choosing to continue to practice my beginner status in any related writing activity until, well, until I’m a beginner in another writing related activity because I’m convinced they’re endless. 😊 That’s exciting in a way, to be the new kid on the block and learn from the best. I hope my perspective has helped you you’re your current situations and that you can feel my support from across the page. We can be beginners together!

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

I Gotta Be (Uncool) Me

Uncool-Me

Do you consider yourself cool, “in,” or on-trend? Are you a person who wants to do what others are doing, read what others are reading, and live the life like the Jones’? I’m still not so sure about me…or am I?

As this new year began, I thought about whether I want to change my approach with my social media accounts. No, not the themes of what I post (don’t worry!), but who I follow or even the books I read to then be able to share with others online. I’ll come back to that in a second, though.

What sparked this blog post was that I was surprised to read over and over in accounts over the last few days that others had the same thought about who they want to interact with online. So many people even declared they want better relationships with followers/who they follow versus only thinking about the numbers of people on their account for the sake of having high numbers. I feel like I am rarely in the majority of common thought, but maybe 2021 has changed that pattern. Haha, yeah right. What’s funny is that at this point in my middle-aged life, I don’t completely want that anymore (gasp!).

See, I have never been a cool person. I’m a nerd. I have embraced it by now, for the most part. During adolescence it was a different story! I was never a person who wore the best clothes, who wanted to be the center of social attention, or who knew how to throw or catch a ball with any success. Yes, I was the person picked last in PE every single time. But I always had good friends, tons of laughs, many hobbies, and excelled in school and the arts. If that is part of the criteria for being uncool, I’ll take it.

But back to the present. How can I fit in with the author culture online but remain myself? How can I play with the popular kids?

I feel like the picture at the top is a good example of how I perceive myself. I am an author, like all the other, ahem, pencils, for most major aspects, but I am also different like the green pencil. I want to draw like the rest of the best, be with them and be considered part of the group, but I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. In this industry, though, that can be a problem at times. Yes, I want to continue on my traditional publishing path (for which I am extremely grateful to be in that company), but I also like to stand out within that path for uncommon and unique reasons. Maybe it’s my niche interests I integrate into my novels like genealogy or the nuggets of Italian American culture I hope people find as interesting as I do. Yes, fun facts are my jam.

If you follow me on social media, you know I have high engagement with my followers. I also try to comment and connect with people who don’t follow me, of course hoping they will, but that’s not the reason I do it. I like chit chatting with everyone. I love giving to others, and online that means making comments, liking, and sharing what someone worked hard on to show to the world that day. I want you to know someone sees you and is rooting you on. By doing this, I’ve made true friends. This is why I have been particular on who I follow back. I want to see posts on my feed that are interesting, clean, inspiring, and beautiful, from kind people. I would rather that any day than having high following numbers from people I would rather not be associated with for my brand. It’s hard to remember that some days, though, but I know I’ll get there.

Another thing you may notice is that I usually do not read huge books of the moment. Maybe I should more often, but I am usually months or years behind. It’s like when capris became popular and I purposely rejected them because everyone was wearing them (plus I have long legs and just wanted a pair of pants that fit!). Sometimes I go the opposite direction of something everyone is doing. It’s my own personal protest. Yes, I know it doesn’t make sense, but it does in my head. I like to be more of an individual and do not like to be told what is good or what I should be doing. I like to read books that may even be embarrassing to post to the world. You know, uncool type books (for example…just kidding. I’ll leave you wondering). In fact, that’s why I don’t post every single book I read on Goodreads. Some info will be left private. I’m even shy to post a #shelfie!

This quote from my favorite artist is an example of how I perceive my choices for my online presence.

Van-Gogh-quote

I can’t have both ways of interacting in either of my author dilemmas. A choice must be made. I need to stay the path I have carved out for having maybe less followers than others but better engagement with people I admire. Also, to continue to be at peace with not reading every new release and hot book of the month. Oh yeah, and to quiet the voice of guilt or the question of fitting in online in my author world. I’m not a true bookstagrammer anyway. I adore the bookstagrammers, don’t get me wrong, because they make my feeds gorgeous and they bring new books to my attention for when I’m ready in ten years. I guess my “color” ismy uncoolness. My being me. My continuing to post what makes me (and my followers) happy. My color lets me shine and stand out from the other authors because they are doing their own things and I continue to do mine.

I may change my opinion in the future, and I am okay with that. Right now, my focus is on getting The Difference published this year (date released soon, eee!) and continuing to edit The Visitor for querying. If you relate to this post, you will love The Difference. My main character Rachel’s journey of self-discovery involves feeling different for her entire life and struggling to find her meaning. Oooh, I can’t wait for you to read it.

I hope you love my genuineness in my posts and my vulnerability here today. I’m just being me. Plain old, uncool me. And I’m great with it. I encourage you to be you as well. There’s only one of each of us, after all.

Dr-Seuss-quote

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

food, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Memories…Christmas as an Italian American

buon-natale

Last year in December, I posted about my memories of my family’s Italian American traditions for Christmas. It was a huge hit! I think we can all use a dose of nostalgia again this year, so here’s a re-post for you to walk down memory lane with me. Enjoy!

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It’s time to say Buon Natale, or Merry Christmas, again. I’ve been thinking about all the wonderful traditions I had as child in an Italian American family and I want to share them with you. Every family has their traditions for the holidays, but mine when I was a child were all Italian style, so I’m curious to hear how they are similar or different to yours.

My grandpa was an immigrant from Italy and my grandma was a first generation American, so their traditions were pretty darn authentic to the experience one may have if they celebrated Christmas in Italy, with maybe a dash of American flair to make it a true Italian American experience. I feel lucky to this day that they taught me the beautiful aspects of an Italian Christmas. 

What did the traditions include? Well, I’m glad you asked (um, I mean that you are still reading this post). I am breaking the traditions into food, food, and more food. Just kidding, but really there was a lot of food. Okay, let’s say the memories include time at home, food, music, and religion.

Christmas Eve was just as large and important as Christmas Day in my house. It was always celebrated at my grandparents’ house and Christmas Day was celebrated at my house (that’s just a D’Angelo thing and not specifically an Italian thing, to clarify). My grandparents had the standard pepperoni and provolone cheese appetizer, with plenty of crackers. Sometimes figs from grandpa’s tree were also set out. Always a variety of nuts as well. A random but delicious and light mix for apps. 

The music played softly but just loud enough to draw attention to it, from the room next to the kitchen. Crooners like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were only a few of the many voices I heard as a child. I also loved when the children’s Christmas songs came on the radio, like Dominick the Donkey (google it and it won’t get out of your head the rest of the day; it’s the best!). 

Before I get to the dinner, let me tell you about the wine. Everyone had a small glass of red wine, even me as a kid (gasp!). It’s normal in an Italian household to allow older kids and young teens to have a small glass of wine. This way, it is savored and you learn to appreciate it, not to abuse it or seek it secretly.

The dinner we ate was huge, especially for a kid. Grandma’s special soup was always on the stove the entire time we were there and finally we were able to eat it as a first course. The soup had rib meat, celery, carrots, garlic, onion, and pasta of course. I have the recipe but could never make it like her. Another part of the first course was the fish baccala, which only my grandpa liked. Traditionally, Italians do the feast of the seven fishes, but we didn’t have that kind of money! The final first course was prepping for the main course by the adults eating hot peppers. These spicy to the max peppers were ones my grandpa grew in his yard. I’ll always remember all of the adults crying while they ate them, saying through their tears, “uh, these are good;” sniff, blow nose, eat more. It was strange to me, but now I get it.

The main course was always aioli. This simple but flavorful linguini dish had garlic and olive oil with a sprinkle parsley and plenty of grated parmesan cheese (aglio= garlic, e =and, and olio = oil, hence, aglio e olio or aioli). Don’t forget the homemade bread. While grandma’s soup simmered, grandpa made loaves of bread. His crusty white bread couldn’t be beat. The other part of the main course was salad, eaten after the meal. The European way is to eat it after so I did that nightly, and still do. The dressing was only one; grandma’s mix of olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper. 

Dessert was always a mix of homemade Italian cookies, including pignolis and pizzelles. If you haven’t had these, you have to try to find them this holiday. Pignolis are pine nut cookies and pizzelles are snowflake looking, thin almond flavored, traditional Italian Christmas cookies that have confectionary sugar on top. Is your mouth watering by now? Mine is.

So, after all of this, we didn’t lay on the couch; we went to midnight mass! As a kid, I slept until 11 PM, stayed awake until we got to church, slept more, and then was awoken at midnight by loud singing and church bells signifying Christmas Day was upon us. It was a groggy time, but also exciting because, my gosh, Santa was coming!

Waking up on Christmas Day was pretty standard. We opened gifts and blah blah blah. But later, grandpa and grandma came and the real celebration began. 

The appetizers were set out to munch on, including a few of the same from the night before, but also one special one came with dinner. As we sat at the table, my mom would sometimes have shrimp cocktail ready for us at our setting. Then, the soup of Christmas, pasta fazool (okay, it’s really called pasta e fagioli; pasta and beans). My mom was taught by my grandma to make it our special way, which isn’t the way you would see it in restaurants. Ours had long spaghetti broken up instead of small pasta. The beans were usually northern cannellini in type. The tomato sauce base was pretty standard though. 

The main course was usually stuffed shells or lasagna. The sauce (not gravy! This is an Italian American battle of names) was homemade to perfection. Meatballs also, of course. The homemade bread was there again also. Salad came last once again. 

Dessert was again pizzelles but also could be something special like cannolis or cheesecake. Now I’m even more hungry!

So, on to music. My dad played accordion and keyboard so the radio wasn’t on after dinner, my dad was “on.” He belted our Italian classics and all of us watched and sang with him. Music is a large part of the Italian culture. There is always music being played on the radio/records/tapes/CDs, being played live, singing with the music was normal, and breaking out in dance was almost a certainty. My grandma danced around with me, while we tried to get grandpa to dance. He was more of a watcher. But the holiday ended on this high note, pun intended.

It was so much fun to re-live these memories through sharing them with you. Please tell me about your experiences. Most of all, enjoy the moments as you partake in the traditions you engage in today. These are the special times we will hold into the future.

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You can make pizzelles! I am giving away my family recipe when you sign up for my VIP newsletter. I hope they bring you overflowing joy this season.

Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, writing

The Anniversary Challenge

the-anniversary-challenge

Well here we are, November 2020. This month makes one year since I started this behind the scenes blog! Cue the balloons and confetti. Play “Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Anniversary” (remember that iconic song of the 90s?). Yeah, I often think in songs and TV or movie lines. 😊 Anyway, this anniversary creeped up on me. Much like other people feel in this strange year, I can’t believe it’s November already. So, I want to share my thoughts on taking chances and being open to opportunities as a way of leading to pleasant experiences.

If you have followed me from the start, you know I started this blog because I was asked to contribute to a friend’s blog. I hadn’t thought about writing a blog of my own, even when asked to submit to the other blog. Once I started writing, however, I felt that it may be something fun to do, especially to write in a different manner than my fictional books. Plus, blogs are a million times more instant than novels to get out to the you, the public. I can write and get it to you at the speed of a click, unlike my novels. The Difference is being published in 2021 and began the process last year, just to give you an idea.

Also, to write monthly for people who care about what I have to say, who want to know my experiences of being an author, and for those who love to read about behind the scenes of artistic endeavors (with a psychotherapist twist of course) started to become enticing once I shared my guest blog post and received a large positive response. But I still wasn’t a “blogger.” That title seemed to reserved for younger and cooler people. I have never been cool and I am a middle-aged woman, yet I thought “Why not? I’ll just try it.”

There have been other times in my life that I took a chance and it paid off. My first career job as a therapist was with the population of children. When I was in graduate school, I ruled them out as a desirable group to counsel. I just didn’t have an interest. I wanted to work with adults only. Well, life had different plans for me…for 13 years. I ended up LOVING child therapy. Now I do work with adults, but I wouldn’t give up that time with kids for anything. The experience I gained formed a solid basis for me to understand where adults begin their concerns. There’s more of course, but that’s for another day. Or another blog. Lol

So have you had an anniversary of something you never thought you would do in the first place? I think many of us do. All of these anniversaries would require taking a leap of faith to begin. Think about what times in your life include taking that chance. Go on. Think. I’ll wait.

Here are some questions that may help if you are struggling to remember:

  • What was something you REALLY did NOT want to do, but had to do? (Something you ended up liking and being happy you did)
  • What was something your heart said to do, even though your mind was yelling NOOOOO? (But you did it anyway and liked it)
  • Who did you give a chance to and they ended up being one of the closest people in your life, romantically or friendship wise? (Anyone you, dare I say, disliked at first)

It’s not only fun to think about these times in your life, these growth opportunities I would call them, but also to then notice the outcomes from your choices. Here comes another pop culture reference. Did you ever see the movie “Sliding Doors?” The idea is that one slight change can lead to a whole different life. One action or event can mean completely different outcomes, those of your choice or not. I often think about this idea when I am stopped a red light I was hoping not to encounter; “Oh, maybe I would have [insert horrible thing] happen if I caught the green one, so I’m glad I am staying here.” Yes, I know that is extreme, but that’s my thoughts sometimes. Think about the bigger picture, though. If you didn’t take the chance with the circumstance or person you thought about a paragraph ago, how different would your life be now?

It-is-well

If you haven’t thought of something yet, no worries. That just means you can make that choice in this present moment. In the next month, I anniversary challenge you to take a chance on something. And if you already have thought of something you did, why not do something else? I mean, I did add widget of a monthly blog catalog on the side of this page, taking a chance of messing up my website, just saying. It sounds silly, but every time I hit publish on here, I cringe then sigh from relief once all is well. See, it can even be something “small.”

Some mental health benefits can arise from challenging yourself. See if you notice these (or have noticed them when thinking about a past action):

  • Increased confidence
  • An improved self-image
  • Increased pride
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Gratitude
  • A new quality/talent discovered
  • A new identity

Taking the minimal risk of attempting to blog monthly was scary for me, but I am glad I did it. I now have monthly interactions with beautiful people. I feel supported by you rooting me on in my author journey, I feel inspired by your comments and stories, and I adore when you get inspired for your own paths. And don’t forget my new computer skills (ahem, the widget).

I hope you are glad I jumped and began this blog. If you feel brave, share your anniversary challenge in the comments. Let’s cheer each other on to gain new positive experiences. I know you can do it.

go-get-em

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Routine and Self-Care Are Your Friends

Routine

Routine. Who responds with excitement and who has a negative reaction to this word? I’m sure there are both reactions out there, along with a variety of in between reactions. I personally love routine and thrive with it. I like to leave freedom in my activities within my routine, but generally, even for my artistic expressions (which may sound counterintuitive, but I’ll explain), I have a routine of some sort. I think it’s grounding. This year, more than ever, I know we can all use a sense of feeling stable with predictability, so let me help you to get there, with intentional self-care thrown in for good measure.

I’ve known about my proclivity for routine for a long time of course, but recently it hit me with how valuable it is for my writing career. I’ve been working on my second novel, which is set in contemporary New Orleans and about an Italian American woman’s journey with trust and allowance of help from her community. I started in July and now have a first draft. It only took three months! The Difference (coming in 2021) took five years. Yes, you read that right. Now let me tell you, it was due to a variety of factors, with the biggest being that writing was a fun hobby back then. I did it as my mood shifted toward that creative outlet. After signing with a publisher and getting into the author world more, writing has grown to be another career for me (I’m also a psychotherapist). I prioritize writing and working on my craft consistently. This blog is part of that consistency, by the way so thanks for being a reader/follower. 😊

During the unknowns in this wild year, I think my Sunday writing routine helped me to have a loved task to look forward to and one which I could depend on weekly. As you know, when you have a passion you will make sacrifices for it. Giving up other interests, needed tasks of the week, or even quality time with my husband on Sundays was what I chose to do so I could get that book out of me and into the world (well, at least in my world right now). It gave me a sense of control in my life when the events around me were yet to be determined. I knew when the quarantine happened that I wanted to make the most of my “down” time and this new book is a huge goal I can check off as accomplished.

With routine there is another necessary factor, I think. It’s almost the flip side in my mind. The way to keep a routine consistently is to keep yourself energized and ready to go. How does one do that? Well, I do it with self-care. That’s kind of a buzz word now, so it may have different meaning to different people. But self-care, to me, means doing activities that bring joy, relaxation, and comfort to you so that your mind and body can recharge for the next step/activity/day. Oh, I hope you know that included in self-care are basic human needs like healthy nutrition and enough sleep. I need to make sure to say that since they are extremely important but are often overlooked.

There are obviously different ways in which people can gain a sense of relief through self-care. I personally do not love to be physically active (but do it because I should for my health and blah, blah, blah), but can sit on my butt for hours reading, crocheting, drawing, and anything else artistic. I love vegging out with TV, movies, and social media too. But you may have different needs. View my list below for some ideas for your self-care.

Physically driven people (If you love moving/outwardly expressing to feel relief)

  • Walking or running
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Playing instruments
  • Yoga
  • Talk to a friend

Mentally driven people (If you love staying in a resting position and reflecting internally to recharge)

  • Arts and crafts
  • Reading
  • Listening to audio books
  • Taking a bath
  • Movies and TV
  • Puzzles
  • Journaling

I can literally go on and on. But those are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning. What do you think? Any seem enticing?

So, let’s make sure you choose a time in your day to do a little something. Maybe just one tiny thing, even if it’s drinking a cup of tea or smelling a fragrant candle. Imagine when you can integrate this into your life. Right now. Go on, do it. Ok, continue reading. 😊

Set a routine for the self-care! Maybe it’s before you get out of bed, before you go to bed, at lunch time, or for 5-10 minutes in the morning or afternoon. Let’s make it happen. I know you can do it!

I hope that this blog post sparked some ideas for you to flourish even more in your life. I’m happy when others feel inspired and motivated by reading my blogs, newsletters, and social media posts. Of course, my books are the biggest tools for conveying these themes, so I can’t wait for you to read them as well.

Always feel free to share ideas this gave you, ask me for input, tell me how you worked routine and self-care into your life, or even how you plan to do so on the near future. I love hearing about your intent and success. Happy routine and self-caring!

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Dedicated to the One I Love

support-people-quote-misty-copeland

Did you know that an author needs more than good ideas, the ability to write well, and the hard (oh so hard!) work that it takes to make it in the publishing world? There is one other HUGE factor that sometimes is forgotten. We need the support of loved ones in our lives. For me, the biggest part of my support team is my husband, Jason. I also have friends and other family around me that continue to lift me up, keep me motivated, and help me out with advice. I know I couldn’t be where I am without any of these people, but this blog post is dedicated to my partner in life for almost 20 years. 😊

When I made the decision to write my first book, The Difference, I didn’t know it would affect my husband. Silly right? I have many artistic hobbies, so how is this one different? Oh yeah, because it involves not only creating and having fun, but building a business. Yes, authors, it’s true that our writing is a business once you share it with the world and intend on making money. Anyway, I didn’t want to or couldn’t think that far ahead because, quiet honestly, it would freak me out, which I have told you in past posts. I didn’t know what needed to occur to get my book published, but I knew I would get it done (and it’s coming soon! Eek, so excited).

You may be wondering how another person is affected by having an author in the same household. Let me count the ways. First of all, he experienced my hours upon hours of writing my book. As I got more serious about my craft, this took away precious weekend time. We both work full time, so weekends are the times we have all day together to relax, travel, see friends, and even run errands (which we think is fun to do together- yes we are weird). He always understood the need for me to spend the time working on my book, but sometimes it was hard to give up the “fun” time. Don’t worry, though, I gave myself breaks. 😉 Now he’s used to the time needed to write, especially since I’m in a routine of weekend writing. With the quarantine, we are working from home daily anyway, so we have plenty of time together. That’s something great to come from the world issue this year.

He’s also had to grow his patience with my social media needs. I’ve always been a photography lover. Wherever we go, especially in travels, I take about 5 million pictures a day. No joke, I have about 30 albums (yup, I’m old school like that). I LOVE to capture everything so I have lots of memories to look at and reminisce about, but now my habit has grown to also keeping an eye out for content to post in my feeds or stories. Since I post daily, I’m always on the lookout, even without being fully aware. My poor husband has had to wait so many times for me to get the perfect angle of something. He especially needs patience when I ask that he take a picture of me in a special location. My approval can take many photo attempts and I know it’s not easy for him (we are all our own worst critics, right?). Sometimes the writing of my post even takes away from what we are doing in the day, although briefly, but he understands it’s part of the gig.

Then there came the querying. This is when authors send their manuscripts and other content out to publishers and agents so they can get a publishing deal. My husband reaffirmed me every time I got a rejection. Every. Single. Time. He never gave up the hope with me that a deal would come. Some days the loss and need to try harder affected me more than others, of course, but he was strong for me, leading me to always be 100% sure someone believes in me and my work. I knew that already, but it’s comforting to hear in those moments. This graphic describes how I feel:

husband-qualities-happy-wines-club-book-quote

More sacrifices you ask? Well, this may be the biggest of all. As my business grows, I have added many responsibilities. There is this blog, my newsletter, marketing and promotion for my book, and writing my second book. Every step of the way, he has heard me talk about it nonstop. People, this is not an exaggeration. If you know me personally, you know when I have such a strong passion for something that it’s almost all I think about most of the time. It’s also a majority of my conversations with him lately. Whoopsie, I didn’t realize that until he pointed it out. And remember we are working from home daily together…all day long…every day…24-7? Oh yes, think about that one for a second. He hears me talk endlessly about every bit of my processes. Rarely does it bother him, so he’s basically a saint.

Along with all of the above, he has taken on many household chores that I usually did during our relationship. He gives me time to write by doing more than his share around the house, despite my rising guilt at times. I seriously couldn’t do it without him and I’m so lucky to be able to devote time needed to my writing. It’s because of him.

Do you have a major support person in your life? I sure hope so. Everyone needs a cheerleader. I know I’m privileged to be in this position. I also know the road ahead is still long, especially since I plan a prosperous and lengthy career of writing (I’m putting it out into the universe). My husband and I will remain a team for this goal of mine because it benefits us both. Have you ever heard “happy wife, happy life?” LOL, just kidding, but honestly, our individual goals become a couple goal all the time. I’ve supported him with his goals and will continue to do so, as will he for me. What more could an author ask for?

Venice-Italy-with-Husband
Jason and I- Venice, Italy

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, writing

Living in Two Worlds

Two-worlds

Have you ever felt like you need to be in two worlds, two places, or to think about two concepts at the same time? In today’s world, I know a lot of us experience being torn between multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking is a way of life for most of us. It’s difficult to be fully invested in anything if you don’t feel grounded in the task of the moment, though. Needing to shift between tasks can be challenging. Obviously, this applies to many roles in our lives (employee, wife, friend…), but specifically for artists I think it can be challenging to switch mindsets and heart. Oh yes, my heart and soul is part of everything I do as an artist/writer, as you probably know by reading my past blogs. I think most artists feel the same way.

Specifically for my writing (since this is a behind the scenes blog of my author life!), I’ve noticed I work best when totally ingrained in the world of my story. I need to be inside the minds of the characters I am writing. I need to be imaging myself in their shoes, walking around in their setting I created. I can feel them with the emotions of the narrative and scenes. This is simply how I work. I see the story and the characters in my mind’s eye, mostly from the main character’s perspective, but I also have to get into the supporting character’s minds when writing their dialogue of course.

When writing my first novel, The Difference, I had a different luxury than currently; I could focus on one story. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to be able to have a writing career, but it takes a mind shift for a writer who works from total emotional investment. See, now I also need to keep moving forward with other stories I want to tell you as my readers. So I need to go back and forth between my novel I’ve worked on for years (for editing) and a new novel I am writing. It’s an incredible blessing but can be challenging. I tried to wait until edits were completely finished for my first novel before starting this WIP (work in progress), but I couldn’t wait any longer. The story was nagging at me to be told. Writers, you feel me on this, right? So now I’m officially living in two imaginary worlds. This picture of me at the Prime Meridian line shows how I feel sometimes, with each foot in a world I created.

split-at-prime-meridian

When I sat down to write my new story for the first time, I almost felt like I was cheating on Rachel, my main character in The Difference. Speaking as Mary in my current WIP took a little getting used to. Although I had her mapped out as a character on paper, to speak like her in my writing required me to keep viewing all the details I set out for myself on paper. I heard Rachel’s voice popping through a few times, but kept redirecting my thoughts to Mary. I had to essentially keep repeating “I’m speaking as Mary now. Mary, Mary, Mary!” I know this may sound confusing (because it is), but this is how it went for me. And I’m only involved in two manuscripts! How some authors can work on more than that at a time is beyond me. But anyway, what happens to me when I write these novels is that I feel I get in a state of flow, and this is helping me to stay in the world I need to be in at the moment. Have you heard the term flow?

Flow state was developed by the positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he described it as being “in the zone.” He said in a TED Talk that “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity… [and] a sense of time disappears.” Friends, this is the magic part. This happens to me every time I’m writing fiction. I am a Type A person, but when in an artistic process, the rules and rigidity float away, and my concentration is at its height, yet is effortless. Before I know it, I have 1,000 words on the page. Flow state is where my best art comes from.

Now, I want to know if you have felt the flow state. I think it requires a few points to reach it, so if you haven’t felt it yet, maybe I can help with how I think it happens for me.

  • First, are you doing something you love? This is required, people, required. It has to be an activity that brings you joy, peace, and excitement. Remember, these thoughts are from my perspective so you may disagree.
  • Second, try to eliminate distracting noise. Can you have on music? Sure, if that is what you love to work with, but if you need silence, make that happen. I know it can be hard when you have others in your home, so it may take some negotiation or deal making for your needs.
  • Third, make sure you have a large chunk of time. I would say at least an hour, minimal. For me, it takes a little while to transition from the normal thinking to the creative thinking to the flow state. I view it as a meditative state in a way. So I need to allow time for the transition of total alertness to outside noise (typically beta state) down to more of an internally alert state (typically alpha state). Remember I am also a therapist, so I know this stuff, lol.
  • Fourth, go to it! Do your thing. Just let it…wait for it…flow. It will come if you are open to it. Just be. Be in the moment.

There you have it. Now we can all be in our own little worlds and never be present again. Um, just kidding. But we can be in our different creative zones and be in the flow state when we engage in our art. How exciting, right?

As I continue to work on my WIP, I have been leaving Rachel’s story in the back of my mind a little bit. I’m not releasing her or it, but just holding the story differently. Believe me, when I play writer games on Twitter (which is what we do in the #writingcommunity) and am asked to talk about my WIP, it’s the strangest feeling for me not to be talking about my first book. The moment I started referring to my new manuscript was jolting. Again, the cheating on Rachel! But I’ll be talking about The Difference the rest of my life, since that is what happens when you write and promote a book (especially so meaningful as my first published book). It’s okay that this new world of Mary’s is calling. And I have to tell you, being in the flow state again feels amazing. I haven’t experienced that in a while with writing because editing doesn’t allow that state for me (it uses more of my logical brain).

So, being in the two worlds is working out okay! Strange at first, but I am getting used to it. And as I dive into my different worlds of creation, I’m constantly thinking of more stories. One has been speaking a little more to me and may turn into a short story. I’ve never done that, and it may be fun to try. But, oh no, that’s a third split for me! I guess I’ll know I can handle it now. I look forward to the differences in character views, settings, and possibly the most enjoyable part…the flow. Immersing in multiple worlds isn’t so bad after all.

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, Women's Fiction Author

The Art of Taking a Break

take-a-break

Does anyone find it ironic that nowadays we have to be conscious of taking a break? If you don’t, I admire you! I have to make sure to keep relaxation in mind so that I don’t overwork. See, I have a problem; I’m a workaholic when I’m passionate about something and my writing fits that category. My mind never stops running for ideas, things needed to be done, and planning for the future. “It’s a gift and curse,” as a favorite TV character says (anyone else love Monk?). This part of my personality allows for me to accomplish a large amount. It allows me to have success in my life, to never stop until I reach my goal…but it also tires me out at times. Finding a balance is important. I know this, but putting it into action can be challenging at times.

Recently I took my birthday week off because my husband and I planned to go on a vacation. Well, as you all know, that wasn’t a possibility this summer, so I decided to have a staycation. Although I have been working from home for my day job for the last 4 months, I knew it would feel different to actually be off the clock, even when in the same location. Somehow being home for work, where I don’t have to commute two hours a day, still doesn’t mean I can get everything done that is on my mental to-do list. Yeah, that’s because that list is endless and unrealistic. I know that yet still try time after time. Anyway, I told myself that week I would relax, breathe, chill out. Putting it into action was harder than I thought.

I did a good job overall with daily leisure. I saw a couple friends (safely of course), I drew and painted, cooked, read some books, played my ukulele, watched TV, and enjoyed swimming. But you know what’s coming…oh yes, I did a little author work as well. Of course I was interacting on my social media daily, but I don’t count that because it’s fun (and needed, yes). But, how could I have a week off and not do some of my author related tasks? That’s just ridiculous. I ended up starting my second novel. Yup, I spent a day getting my outline ready, formatting, and actually writing the first few pages. And you know what? It felt good! I had a weight lifted off of my mind by starting it and also had fun writing. That has to be acceptable, right?

I have to admit, though, I felt guilt either way, so I went ahead and was productive. At least that way I moved forward on my goals. Although I did all those fun and relaxing activities, I had that little voice in the back of my head telling me “Shouldn’t you be doing something writing related?” I had to keep reminding myself that it was vacation for me. I had to fight against my workaholic spirit to free myself to engage in the fun activities. And I did, except for that one day. Hey, I think that’s pretty good and will give myself a pat on the back, thank you very much.

Who else experiences this push and pull of the guilt? I think a lot of us feel it, especially in this unique year. So, does taking a break require a special skill set? Is there an actual art to it? I’m an artist so that should come easy to me. There is that word again, though; should. I try not to use it as much as possible because I’ve learned it creates more guilt. I help my therapy clients with avoiding that mindset as well, but it’s hard to apply to myself sometimes.

Back to the art of it, though. Maybe the art is simply having a balance. Maybe it’s just knowing when I am at risk of being drained. Burning out will be counterproductive in the end, so I don’t want to reach that place. Living where I can work and relax must be the way to go. Instead of push, push, push, maybe I need reminders to pause, pause, pause. Balance for the opposite ends of the spectrum is needed. I need to live in the gray and not the black or white, so to speak. That’s a fact. I know this, but sometimes my overachiever spirit tries to quiet the thought.

Okay, here’s the plan to lessen guilt by taking breaks routinely. I have a few realistic (key word for me) author tasks to complete each week, so this week I started to make a list of them. Checking them off as I finish them feels satisfying, which is a bonus to the completion of the actual task. I am making sure to also have a choice of 2-3 hobby related activities I can choose from each weeknight and on weekends. I work well with structure, but this is just enough to feel like I accomplish something and also hold myself accountable for down time. I’ve accepted that I require mental organization for even down time. I’m not a person who can “just relax.” My relaxing requires my mind to be as free as possible from the to-do activities, so having a plan is key. I work well with limits and rules., even when I make them for myself.

Look, there is always more to do. There is always a way to do better and be better in any area of life. That opportunity excites me, but I need to pace myself, my gosh. I do believe things come when the time is right, so it will just happen when meant to be anyway. What is in my control is taking care of myself, which means rest. That is how I will be my best for myself and everyone else.

Your art of taking a break may look different than mine, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. I love learning from others, so always feel free to tell me how you do with the balance of work and play. Let’s all take care of ourselves during this year especially. It’s a great lesson to learn for the rest of our lives.

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Feel free to follow and share my blog. Also, join my VIP Newsletter for announcements, giveaways, and more!

Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.